Yesterday, the government announced that social prescriptions, including walking, wheeling and cycling, will be offered by GPs as part of a new trial to improve mental and physical health and reduce disparities across the country.
The government has awarded £12.7 million in multi-year funding to 11 local authority areas in England. The funding will go towards several pilot projects in each location, including:
• Adult cycle training
• Free bike loans
• Walking groups
Other schemes include all-ability cycling taster days where people who may not have
cycled before can try to in a friendly environment, or walking and cycling mental health groups where people can connect with their communities as they get active.
The pilots must be delivered alongside improved infrastructure so people feel safe to cycle and walk.
The 11 local authority areas that will trial social prescriptions are:
• Bath and North East Somerset
The pilots, a commitment in the government’s Gear Change plan published in 2020, aim to evaluate the impact of cycling and walking on an individual’s health, such as reduced GP appointments and reliance on medication due to more physical activity. For the first time, transport, active travel and health officials will work together towards a whole systems approach to health improvement and tackling health disparities.
Walking and Cycling Minister, Trudy Harrison, said:
"Walking and cycling has so many benefits – from improving air quality in our communities to reducing congestion on our busiest streets.
It also has an enormous positive impact on physical and mental health, which is why we have funded these projects which will get people across the country moving and ease the burden on our NHS."
Minister for Health, Maria Caulfield, said:
"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.
The UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country. We’ve already exceeded our target to ensure over 900,000 people are referred to social prescribing schemes by 2023-24 and this pilot will help us identify further schemes to reduce disparities and boost mental and physical wellbeing across the country."