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GPs to prescribe sport and leisure activities to improve patient wellbeing

27 July 2018

The government is to invest nearly £4.5 million to fund ‘social prescribing’ schemes throughout England using the Health and Wellbeing Fund.

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The funding will allow GPs to refer more patients to social activities and other types of support to improve health and wellbeing and reduce demand on NHS services.

Under the schemes, GP’s can refer patients to local voluntary and community services such as walking clubs, gardening or arts activities.

A UK study found that after 3 to 4 months, 80% of patients referred to a social prescribing scheme had reduced their use of A&E, outpatient appointments and inpatient admissions.

Disability Rights UK applauds this initiative. It chimes with our own Get Out Get Active project which supports disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together. Also, our Get Yourself Active project works with the health, social care and sports sectors to develop better opportunities for disabled people to get active.

Our only concern is the length of time a project receives funding. This can be from one to three years. But if a project is particularly successful it is logical that funding should continue for longer or the scheme be extended to other areas.

The social prescribing schemes include a focus on:

  • reaching out to people who may be socially isolated, for example because of mental health problems or learning difficulties

  • providing support for those impacted by health inequalities, such as transgender people or people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds

  • helping people with particularly complex needs who regularly access health services

Examples of the schemes receiving funding include a new street games scheme focusing on socially excluded young people aged 5 to 25 and a project to support for people with a very high dependency on A&E.