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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 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, 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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