People walking and cycling in the spring sunshine on Wimbledon Common in May. GPs around England are to prescribe patients activities such as walking or cycling in a bid to ease the burden on the NHS by improving mental and physical health.
The £12.7m trial, which was announced by the Department for Transport and will begin this year, is part of a wider movement of “social prescribing”, an approach already used in the NHS , in which patients are referred for non-medical activities.
In 2020 the government launched trials into the impact of getting involved in the natural environment on mental health and wellbeing , while social prescribing has also been embraced in many other countries, including Australia where GPs have begun prescribing 5km parkruns to patients .
Minister for health, Maria Caulfield, said the UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in the NHS and communities across the country.
“Getting active is hugely beneficial for both our mental and physical health, helping reduce stress and ward off other illness such as heart disease and obesity,” she said.
The latest trial will focus specifically on boosting active travel and will take place in 11 local authority areas in England, including Cornwall, Bradford, and Leeds, 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.
The Department for Transport said that alongside the trials, which are part of the government’s Gear Change plan published in 2020 to boost walking […]