Local GP groups have welcomed council plans to allow them to prescribe cycling lessons to patients who need to get more active.
The scheme, which as we reported last weekend, has been spearheaded by Kingston London Borough Council, could now be rolled out further across the country.
The move would allow patients free bike loans, 12 weeks of professional training and group rides and gym sessions.
Patients with diabetes, weight problems, mental health problems, high blood pressure and inactive lifestyles could all be referred by GPs to the scheme.
Surrey and Sussex LMCs chief executive Dr Julius Parker told GP Online it was “very positive”.
Although some GPs said they feared extra workload from patients coming to request the courses, Dr Parker said: “I don't think anybody is going to come and see us and say ‘I’ve come for a referral’.
“I don't think the issue of demand will be a problem. If it is one of the options in a discussion with somebody who needs more exercise anyway, then I think it is a positive process.”
Kingston London Borough Council sustainable transport officer Eric Chasseray said: “Many patients are either new to cycling or have not been on a bike for years and want to refresh their skills and renew their enjoyment of cycling.
“By utilising the expertise and resources from Kingston’s public health department and sustainable travel teams, patients can feel confident that they are receiving the proper care and training by qualified and competent staff in a safe environment.”
Kingston resident Doreen Sweeney who was referred to the scheme to help with weight loss said: ‘“he course really helped to rebuild my confidence. I’m 62 and I hadn’t ridden a bike for about 40 years. I was worried at first about my balance but it really was like second nature.”
‘Social prescribing' is a current buzzword in NHS England, with the idea being to reduce unnecessary medicating of problems including minor depression, obesity and pre-diabetes.
In 2015 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told GPs that while a fifth of their time is spent dealing with patients' social problems, such as debt, isolation, housing, and employment, half of GPs have no contact at all with social care providers.
He said: ’We need to empower general practice by breaking down the barriers with other sectors, whether social care, community care or mental health providers, so that social prescribing becomes as normal a part of your job as medical prescribing is today.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.