Trainers in GP surgeries could tackle inactivity and mental health, experts say
Every GP surgery should have access to personal trainers who can help patients improve their fitness and mental health, a report launched by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has proposed today (5 November).
This recommendation was the result of contributions from several health experts and charities, including former health minister Lord Darzi and leaders from the Royal College of GPs, the Royal Society for Public Health, Nuffield Trust, Mind and Age UK. It was formally published by not-for-profit organisation ukactive.
The report’s launch also accompanied a poll of MPs showing more concern about physical inactivity than smoking, alcohol abuse or sexually transmitted diseases.
Professor Mike Pringle, president of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs are experts in delivering patient-centred, holistic care, which includes promoting measures that could prevent serious illness in our patients and managing the care that our patients with these conditions receive.
“Some of the initiatives outlined by ukactive today will go a long way to raising awareness of the importance of physical activity – and support GPs and our teams to deliver services that could make a real difference to our patients’ lives.
“Encouraging patients to be more active is a key factor in ensuring a sustainable NHS for the future and general practice is at the heart of the NHS.”
Pringle also used the opportunity to request that the government invest more in GPs in general by upping the workforce in order to cope with current demand.
The baroness, chair of ukactive, said: “What we’ve set out, together with a coalition of health experts, is a plan for how we can build physical activity into everybody’s lives. Some of these steps will be easier than others, but the key point is that we need to take action on a number of fronts to tackle such an entrenched and serious problem.
“With precious public services like the NHS already stretched to a breaking point, we’ve got to be bolder about prevention – and that starts with getting people moving more.”
The report sought to tackle Britain’s inactivity level, a serious contributor to the NHS yearly bill, through a cross-agency initiative that would be just as relevant in primary care as it would in local transport services.
For example, Grey-Thompson also suggested that NHS England should appoint a ‘physical health tsar’ to lead new policies excluding “exercise on prescription” for those who would benefit from it.
But she also pitched a physical activity referral programme that could be launched by the Department for Work and Pensions to improve the health of the long-term unemployed.
Other recommendations included seeing care homes and councils introducing free or subsidised activity sessions for older people, low-interest loans helping small firms invest in physical activity schemes for staff, and a Cabinet Office-led physical activity strategy.
Previous research by ukactive showed that 29% of England is considered to be physically inactive, seriously increasing their risk of 20 grave conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, dementia and mental health problems. Managing these long-term conditions is responsible for eating up around 70% of the NHS annual budget.
But despite the suggested measures, the Department of Health announced just yesterday that public health budgets across the country – responsible for tackling exactly this – would see £200m worth of cuts during this financial year.