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NHS trial to prescribe cycling to patients to improve physical and mental health receives increased funding

Eleven local authorities have been selected for the £13.9 million government trial which will enable health workers to prescribe walking and cycling to patients

Doctors and health workers at the NHS will be able to prescribe walking and cycling to patients as a part of a trial to improve their physical and mental health, and a funding of £13.9 million has been offered to 11 local authorities which will take part in the trial.

The “active travel social prescribing scheme” was launched in August 2022 to help councils launch a range of projects that will evaluate the impact of active travel on an individual’s physical and mental health, such as through reduced demand for healthcare appointments and reliance on medication due to more physical activity.

Now, the details of the funding have been published by Active Travel England (ATE), and the councils selected include Bath and North East Somerset, Cumbria County, Gatehead, Leeds City, Suffolk City, Nottingham City, Plymouth City, Staffordshire County, Cornwall, City of Bradford Metropolitan District, and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough.

Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman said: “Many studies have shown active travel has massive health benefits. Enabling everyone in England to travel under their own steam will help reduce conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, whilst at the same time, improving mental wellbeing.

“We aim to use these trials to build on the existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can help build a healthier nation in an easy and sustainable way.”

> How to maximise your fitness when you get to 40+

Active Travel England detailed what some of the councils will be doing with the funding. For instance, Recipients include Bradford City Council, which has received £1.34 million to deliver projects that will see patients offered free access to guided walking and cycling activities, cycle training and bike loans.

In Plymouth, the council is using its £1.2 million share of the funding to help tackle patients’ individual barriers to active travel by working with them to develop personal walking and cycling plans.

Decarbonisation Minister Jesse Norman said: “This funding will help thousands more people across the country to realise the mental and physical health benefits that walking and cycling brings.

“Prescribing walking and cycling will not only improve the health and wellbeing of people across the country but will also reduce pressure on the NHS and help people to choose more sustainable transport choices.”

Active Travel England also mentioned that the pilots will take a pioneering approach that will see active travel and health officials work together to develop a whole systems approach to health improvement and tackling health disparities.

When the project was announced last year, Chris Boardman had said the project will “lead to a healthier nation” and reduce the burden on the NHS.

> Cycling and mental health: How to get help & 15 signs someone needs help

“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.”

In other news, ATE also announced that it will be publishing the breakdown of funding for its £32.9 million capability fund, initially announced in January. This investment will help 78 councils in England design, develop and consult on high-quality active travel schemes that work for residents. The funding will also be used to deliver training and engagement activities that give people the choice to walk, wheel and cycle.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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35 comments

Avatar
eburtthebike | 9 months ago
0 likes

I look forward to this being totally ignored by the msm, who will concentrate, as they have done for the past fifty years, exclusively on diet.

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mark1a | 9 months ago
2 likes

I don't think this is necessarily a new initiative. My own GP was telling me for years that unless I started doing more exercise in my mid 30s (the mid 2000s), things won't go well in future, advice I mostly ignored for a few more years, before taking up cycling. I lost 10kg in less than a year and never felt better both physically and mentally, haven't looked back since. 

Anyway, I saw him last year for the first time in a couple of years and noticed he was half the man he used to be, and tactfully said "you're looking very well yourself." He replied something along the lines of "I decided I needed to practise what I preach, and bought a bike." 

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mattw | 9 months ago
0 likes

How do these work?

NHS achieves notable success putting Diabetes Type II into remission for a few years by advising on diet and exercise, and restoring people to pre-diabetic.

So I can see the value here.

But what does the £1.2m pay for?

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Awavey replied to mattw | 9 months ago
2 likes

Its called social prescribing in NHS terms, In Suffolk (still not a city) its a 3 year pilot scheme, and the £1.5m is there to deliver a whole range of things from all ability cycling taster days, to exercise mental health groups, bike loans, route planning and even bike maintenance.

basically it could be summarised as adult bike training, walking groups and some equipment loans.

I suspect in reality its targetted more at dealing with mental health issues than physical health.

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mattw replied to Awavey | 9 months ago
1 like

I think they should be prescribing cycling for the mental and physical health of all those irate taxi drivers.

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hawkinspeter replied to mattw | 9 months ago
1 like

mattw wrote:

I think they should be prescribing cycling for the mental and physical health of all those irate taxi drivers.

It wouldn't even need to take time away from their day job

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yupiteru | 9 months ago
4 likes

So how's this going to work?  Doctor gives patient a prescription to go for a run.

Patient takes prescription into chemist, hands it to pharmacist and pharmacist then chases patient down down the road for a couple of miles with a machete in his hands?

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Oldfatgit replied to yupiteru | 9 months ago
1 like

Isn't there a charge for prescriptions in England too...
(Free in Scotland)

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mattw replied to Oldfatgit | 9 months ago
1 like

I can't find stats for % of population who get them free, but in England 90% of prescription items are dispensed free of charge - mainly because over 60s get them free.

 

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Owd Big 'Ead | 9 months ago
1 like

Wow!

A million quid here, a million quid there.

By the time the enablers have had their noses in the trough, how much money do you actually think will be used to get more people cycling.

Very few I would imagine.

Jesse Norman talks of thousands, but I can't see it being anything more than hundreds. Another box ticking exercise.

We need millions on bikes, not a few token individuals meeting specific requirements.

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chrisonabike replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 9 months ago
2 likes

Owd Big 'Ead wrote:

... By the time the enablers have had their noses in the trough, how much money do you actually think will be used to get more people cycling.

Very few I would imagine.

Jesse Norman talks of thousands, but I can't see it being anything more than hundreds. Another box ticking exercise.

I feel you (is this modern phrase right?) - but a small disagreement.  I can imagine this being engineered so plenty of people do benefit - by spending this money on static trainers / cycling at the gym.  Which is not what you might hope for but for health it's "something".

Owd Big 'Ead wrote:

We need millions on bikes, not a few token individuals meeting specific requirements.

Amen!  Most in the UK would say "why?" - a valid question.  Hopefully most people on road.cc are vaguely aware of the virtuous circle that mass cycling can bring.  It's not commonly understood by most or it's seen as something which just "couldn't work" here.

The question is always "how?" which has a trivial answer and a much more difficult one.  Trivial - copy the common factor which all places where this happens share.  Clue - it isn't the culture, the weather, the terrain, the population density or even the drivers... The difficult bit is "getting there from our stable 4-ish generations of UK motornormativity".

* Better health, "wellbeing" including much more pleasant "human-friendly" environments, social inclusion for the old / those with disabilities and more personal independence for them and children, resilience, local economic boost, wider economic benefits - albeit largely through savings, less pollution and use of resources etc.

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a1white | 9 months ago
10 likes

I've not been prescribed cycling as such, but I have a blood disorder that results in me having a much higher platelet count. One of the reasons I'm not on chemo treatment yet, to control the levels, is my exercise levels. My haematologist encourages me to cycle as much as possible as she is aware of the health benefits. 

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mattw | 9 months ago
8 likes

Lol. Perhaps there are more useful things to do with this money before telling people to go ride a bike.

This is the end of the lit and landscaped cycling / walking right next to my Doctors' surgery:

 

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IanMSpencer | 9 months ago
9 likes

When will it dawn that not exercising is bad for you therefore doing just about anything but slumping in front of a screen is going to improve your health.

It shouldn't need studies or initiatives, it shouldn't be controversial, it should just be an accepted part of life like smoking is bad for you.

Any time I go out, it stuns me how many obese people there are, and how the nation is dividing into those who look after themselves and the rest. It would not surprise me if there was a strong correlation between COVID skeptics, anti-ULEZ freedom warriors and poor health. The right wing media mafia no doubt being part of the mechanism.

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HoldingOn replied to IanMSpencer | 9 months ago
4 likes

I know you didn't say it, but just incase anyone might infer it from your comment: plenty of obese people are trying to look after themselves. I see plenty out running and often see heavier people in mass-cycling videos. Conversely I see plenty of skinny people definitely not looking after themselves.
I recognise that you meant it as two statements, you weren't saying obese people don't look after themselves.

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Adam Sutton replied to HoldingOn | 9 months ago
3 likes

I follow a guy on instagram purley for the inspiration. I don't think it is wrong to say when he shares how he started out cycling, he was morbidly obese. The transformation and will power of this guy are quite something.

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wtjs replied to HoldingOn | 9 months ago
1 like

you weren't saying obese people don't look after themselves

Wasn't he? If not, I am. Of course, there coud be mitigating factors, but for the great majority of obese people, the statement is true

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HoldingOn replied to wtjs | 9 months ago
0 likes

Apologies, I will amend my statement to: "you weren't saying all obese people don't look after themselves"

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wtjs replied to HoldingOn | 9 months ago
0 likes

I will amend my statement to: "you weren't saying all obese people don't look after themselves"

Correct- it's only 'almost all'

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Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
16 likes

Quote:

 In Plymouth, the council is using its £1.2 million share of the funding to help tackle patients’ individual barriers to active travel by working with them to develop personal walking and cycling plans.

  • Go for a walk occasionally.
  • Ride your bicycle sometimes.
  • Do as much as you can but don't exhaust yourself.
  • As you get fitter, ride a bit further, walk for a bit longer.

To whom should I send my invoice for £1.2M? Happy to call it a round million for cash.

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brooksby | 9 months ago
8 likes

I appreciate that its not the point of the story, but ive got to say how concerning I find it when I see people riding their bike while at the same time having a dog on a lead.

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Xenophon2 replied to brooksby | 9 months ago
2 likes

Agree.  Disaster waiting to happen.  I helped pull a cyclist out of a ditch after his mutt decided to chase someting that caught its eye on the other side of the front wheel.  

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Sriracha replied to brooksby | 9 months ago
1 like

I am similarly troubled when they drape their hi-viz over the front tyre, flapping in the spokes.

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Fignon's ghost replied to Sriracha | 9 months ago
1 like

And don't forget those who cycle in their flip flops.

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chrisonabike replied to Fignon's ghost | 9 months ago
3 likes

... unless they've got SPDs?

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 9 months ago
3 likes

It's the ones with ferrets that trouble me. But then I'm prone to going down rabbit holes.

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Oldfatgit replied to brooksby | 9 months ago
5 likes

Surely it's against Rule 66?

I tried riding with my dog on a lead once, off-road on a forest track.
All was fine until he decided he'd had enough and sat down.
At 40 kilos, it was like someone throwing an anchor off a boat ... it was fine until the slack came out of the lead, then then, next thing I know, I'm on the deck tangled up in the bike ... and the dog is sitting there, tongue hanging out looking like he's saying "what did *I* do", as only a rottweiler can.

That was a lesson painfully learnt ... cycle or walk the dog. Not both.

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giff77 replied to Oldfatgit | 9 months ago
1 like

Surprised he didn't take a chunk out of your leg with a that will learn you look. 

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 9 months ago
4 likes

Waste of time and money. It may have a minimal impact I.e introduce a few to active travel, temporarily. For most it will soon be back to driving to the local takeaway or supermarket. Spend the money on infrastructure instead. 

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a1white replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 9 months ago
2 likes

why are people so negative about this initiative on here?  Anyone who has started exercising more, especially something as enjoyable as cycling, knows the benefits it brings to your wellbeing and you're more likely to want to continue to peruse a more healthy lifestyle. Getting people to cycle and exercise more is often the biggest hurdle rather than making them continue. 

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