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GPs to prescribe cycling to "ease the burden" on NHS

£12.7 million funding will go towards adult cycling training, free bike loans, as well as walking and cycling mental health groups

GPs in 11 areas of England will trial prescriptions of cycling, walking and wheeling activities in a bid to improve mental and physical health and ease the strain on the National Health Service.

Announcing £12.7 million of multi-year funding, the government revealed the 11 local authority areas that will trial the social prescriptions, which include Bath & North East Somerset, Leeds and Nottingham.

Walking and Cycling Minister Trudy Harrison said the positive impact of active travel can "ease the burden on our NHS", while the government announcement included a note that "pilots must be delivered alongside improved infrastructure so people feel safe to walk and cycle".

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The £12.7 million funding will go towards several pilot projects in each location, including adult cycling training, free bike loans, walking and cycling mental health groups and all-ability taster days.

In addition to the three aforementioned areas, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire are also part of the pilot, which will be delivered between 2022 and 2025.

National Active Travel Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said the project will "lead to a healthier nation" and reduce the burden on the NHS.

"As a nation we need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips. Active Travel England's mission is to ensure millions of people nationwide can do just that – so it's easier to leave the car at home and to enjoy the benefits that come with it," Boardman said.

"Moving more will lead to a healthier nation, a reduced burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as huge cost savings. This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England."

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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 added: "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."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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28 comments

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Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
2 likes

Didn't see this all over the front pages of the mail etc. Perhaps Road.cc could ask them for a comment 😂

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Awavey | 1 year ago
1 like
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steaders1 | 1 year ago
3 likes

I could do with a new bike so I'm just off to the Doc's to get a prescription

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David9694 replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
1 like

steaders1 wrote:

I could do with a new bike so I'm just off to the Doc's to get a prescription

I'm sorry, but carbon fibre and Ti are not available on the NHS. Disc brakes? No, sorry. 

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Awavey replied to steaders1 | 1 year ago
1 like

AIUI all it involves is inviting people to attend all-ability cycling taster days or cycling training lessons, with some loan bikes.

apparently participating local authorities are being told they must improve infrastructure alongside the trials, so I suspect some of the headline budget will go on that.

and I suspect it will be near impossible to measure the impact

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eburtthebike replied to Awavey | 1 year ago
0 likes

Awavey wrote:

and I suspect it will be near impossible to measure the impact

Shouldn't be that difficult; just keep track of the people who took part and ask them how much they ride in six months, a year etc.

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mdavidford replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
1 like

That's measuring the wrong thing, though - this is intended as a health intervention, so you'd want to measure the health outcomes of the participants - where impacts would likely take quite a while to materialise.

(You might also want to measure health outcomes in the wider community, since you'd hope that the improved infrastructure part of it would have an effect beyond those attending the sessions, but that's where it would get more difficult to define target populations and control for other factors.)

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Awavey replied to mdavidford | 1 year ago
2 likes

Exactly, and especially as it's as much about mental health outcomes as the physical ones, versus giving people a prescription of drugs instead.

They're very tricky things to measure that you've improved someones health just by offering them a day riding a bike.

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eburtthebike replied to mdavidford | 1 year ago
2 likes

mdavidford wrote:

That's measuring the wrong thing, though - this is intended as a health intervention, so you'd want to measure the health outcomes of the participants - where impacts would likely take quite a while to materialise.

From my, admittedly limited, reading on the subject, the positive effects appear fairly rapidly, weeks and months, not years.

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jaymack replied to Awavey | 1 year ago
0 likes

True but of course not everthing that counts can be measured and not everything that can be measured counts. 

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hawkinspeter replied to jaymack | 1 year ago
3 likes

jaymack wrote:

True but of course not everthing that counts can be measured and not everything that can be measured counts. 

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billymansell | 1 year ago
8 likes

Long long long before Covid my GP surgery offered exercise on prescription with walks or access to gyms and swimming pools so I thought all surgeries would be doing the same. I did suggest to the Practice manager that they should link with the bike hire scheme only for the council to pull the bike hire scheme a few months later.

Also, every surgery, especially new ones, should have ample good bike racks as part of this push for exercise on prescription with surgeries encouraging people to walk or cycle to the surgery if they can. There is only one place to lock a single bike at my surgery - a handrail for a ramp - and in over 30 years I've rarely seen another bike occupying that space when I arrive.

I find it odd that surgeries know they should be encouraging people to be more active yet nearly everyone drives to the surgery as there's little alternative to getting there, which clogs up the roads with cars and leads to fighting over parking that does no good for people's blood pressure or general health.

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chrisonatrike replied to billymansell | 1 year ago
1 like

Unhealthy (n): a person who drives more than their doctor?

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Sriracha | 1 year ago
10 likes

When did Norman Tebbit become Health Secretary?

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chrisonatrike | 1 year ago
1 like

Is that "ease pressure on the NHS by deploying rolling road blocks to slow motorists" or "ease pressure on the NHS by killing off some people otherwise using up resources"? Might this not actually lead to an increase in costs because some people might thump the GP telling them this / have a heart attack?

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonatrike | 1 year ago
7 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

Is that "ease pressure on the NHS by deploying rolling road blocks to slow motorists" or "ease pressure on the NHS by killing off some people otherwise using up resources"? Might this not actually lead to an increase in costs because some people might thump the GP telling them this / have a heart attack?

Bold of you to assume that they can get more than a telephone appointment with their GP.

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OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
4 likes

That'll have the gammonati DM readers frothing at the mouth when they're told to go off and ride a bike...

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hawkinspeter replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
10 likes

OldRidgeback wrote:

That'll have the gammonati DM readers frothing at the mouth when they're told to go off and ride a bike...

Maybe they'll start demanding LTNs

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Clem Fandango replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
9 likes

It'd be a golden age for the cycling helmet, hi-viz tabard & cycling insurance industries though surely

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John G replied to Clem Fandango | 1 year ago
5 likes

... and numberplate suppliers too.

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Sriracha replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
11 likes

GP: So, what seems to be the trouble?
Me: There's nowhere to park my bike securely.

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David9694 replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
7 likes

Doctor, doctor, people keep ignoring me!

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chrisonatrike replied to David9694 | 1 year ago
8 likes

Me: I can barely move anywhere and I feel this grinding sensation when I try.
GP: You've a slipped disc.

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David9694 replied to chrisonatrike | 1 year ago
2 likes

Best thing for you is some BR 5600s 

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Morgoth985 replied to David9694 | 1 year ago
3 likes

Next!

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hutchdaddy replied to David9694 | 1 year ago
0 likes

You must be a cyclist...

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David9694 replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
1 like

Doctor, doctor I keep thinking I'm a pair of curtains!

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David9694 replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
0 likes

Or go fly a kite?

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