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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.”

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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.

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“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

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mctrials23 replied to a1white | 9 months ago
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I think people are not against the core idea of people doing some exercise, its just a sad indictment of the state of peoples health that doctors are "prescribing" something which literally requires you to move your limbs a bit more. Everyone knows they should be exercising. Everyone knows that junk food is bad for you. 

Thats why its such a hard problem to fix. How do you get people to do something really easy that they know they should be doing but aren't?

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Sriracha replied to mctrials23 | 9 months ago
2 likes

Metrics. That's one way.

I got myself a Garmin watch, originally so that I could ditch the Garmin head unit for nav/logging my rides, with the added bonus of including heart rate data (I originally got the head unit so as not to have my phone cooking in the sun on my handlebars ... and I originally used the phone for sat nav and logging rides).

Boom - now I was exposed to the whole Garmin smorgasbord of metrics - Vo2max, HRV, intensity minutes, sleep, steps, stairs, weekly targets etc.

Once I'd cleared out the chaff, I'm still left with a compulsion to hit the weekly "intensity minutes" target, with an eye on VO2max etc. It's funny how it can make you take a three mile walk at the end of the week, just to keep all the boxes ticked!

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Awavey | 9 months ago
1 like

there are no cities in Suffolk, though Dunwich was a contender, comparable in size to London in the 14th century  3

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Argos74 | 9 months ago
5 likes

Seems legit.

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Sriracha | 9 months ago
9 likes

Hopefully this will underscore the imperative for councils and planners to provide more (and better) infrastructure, to safely accommodate the doctors' orders.

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