Saturday, 25 May, 2024
HomeMedical PracticeNHS trials new £12m non-medical intervention programme

NHS trials new £12m non-medical intervention programme

In efforts to relieve the pressure on the National Health Service (NHS) in England, and to improve the population’s physical and mental health, doctors will start prescribing activities like walking or cycling, part of a wider movement of “social prescribing” in which patients are referred for non-medical interventions and activities.

The £12.7m trial, announced by the Department of Transport, is to begin this year, reports The Guardian.

Two years ago, the government launched trials into the impact on mental health and well-being of involvement in the natural environment, while social prescribing has also been embraced in other countries, including Australia, where GPs now prescribe 5km park runs to patients.

The latest trial will focus specifically on boosting active travel and will take place in 11 local authority areas in England, with free bike loans, all-ability cycling taster days, and walking and cycling mental health groups, among the pilot projects to be supported by the funding.

It is hoped the pilots, to be delivered within the next three years through existing social prescribing systems and networks, will help shed light on whether such activities can help reduce GP appointments and patients’ reliance on medication, among other measures of individuals’ health.

However, Dr David Strain, chair of the BMA board of science, said more needs to be done. “These excellent pilots are to be welcomed but to meaningfully reduce health inequalities, climate change and physical inactivity, much more investment will be needed over the long-term, both in public health approaches and capacity and active transport infrastructure across the country,” he said.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said he welcomed news of the extra investment, enabling the NHS to try new ways of supporting mental health, such as through social prescribing schemes. But, he added, prescribing exercise is not a miracle cure for treating mental health problems.

“What we urgently need to see is proper investment into our country’s mental health services,” he said. “Only that will enable us to deliver support to the 1.6m people on waiting lists, and the 8m who would benefit from mental health support right now but are deemed by the system not to be unwell enough to access it.”


The Guardian article – GPs to prescribe walking and cycling in bid to ease burden on NHS (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Weekend exercise enough to stay fit – decade-long US cohort study


For CVD patients, no upper limit to benefits from physical activity — Lifelines Cohort Study


Leisure physical activity linked to health benefits but not work activity


WHO: New guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour




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