GPs to prescribe walking and cycling as part of £1.3m pilot

Saturday, 8 July 2023 00:44

By Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter

Doctors across the Keighley and Ilkley areas could prescribe walking and cycling after details of a new health pilot were published.

Bradford is one of 11 local authorities to be awarded funding from the Active Travel Social Prescribing Pilot, and it was today announced that the District will get £1.34m.

It could see doctors urge people to take up cycling or join walking sessions if they feel exercise would prove more effective than medication.

Bradford’s successful bid was a joint effort by the Council and the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, part of the NHS.

The pilot will build on a healthcare approach called social prescribing, where GPs and other healthcare workers can prescribe activities, exercise and support.

This can help to improve physical and mental wellbeing, prevent further illness and help people take control of their own lives.

A prescription might include support to get started cycling or become more confident on a bike, to build up fitness with a walk leader or to find safe routes to use for walking, running or cycling everyday journeys, to school, to work or to other local destinations.

The Active Travel Social Prescribing Pilot focuses on parts of Bradford where health needs are high, and where few people currently walk or cycle. Its aim is to enable people to feel ready and confident to use existing or new footpaths and cycleways for their everyday journeys.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Portfolio Holder for Health People and Places said; “What we learn along the way will help us to become a more active place. The improvements could include cycle loan scheme, expanding cycle and travel training, making it easier and safer for people to feel confident to get active to improve their mental health and overall wellbeing. We now look forward to continuing our ongoing conversations with communities and partner organisations to deliver the pilot study over the next three years.”

Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman said: “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.”

Active Travel England has also announced that West Yorkshire Combined Authority will be awarded £2.5m from its Capability Fund – set up to help councils “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.

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