In order to reduce costly inactivity in the UK, the government must take action across the NHS and ensure every GP surgery has access to a personal trainer, health experts said today.
The report, launched by charity UKActive at the Emirates stadium in London, called on the government to ensure each practice has access to a trained physical activity professional who can help patients work on their fitness to improve their cardio-respiratory and mental health.
The report includes contributions from a wide range of leading health experts and charities, including former health minister and surgeon Lord Darzi, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Royal Society for Public Health, the Nuffield Trust, Mind and Age UK.
It comes as new Dods polling data of 100 Members of Parliament shows that the overwhelming majority – 79% – believe physical inactivity should be seen as a major public health priority of comparable importance to obesity.
Prof Mike Pringle, president of RCGP, said: “Physical activity is recognised to be essential to physical and mental wellbeing and inactivity as a major cause of ill-health. Primary care is where most of NHS prevention and long-term condition management takes place. The promotion of physical activity in primary care, with support from Royal Colleges and local authorities, can only benefit the health of the whole community.”
Specifically, the report – Blueprint for an Active Britain – urges NHS England to appoint a ‘Physical Activity Tsar’ to lead on new policies, a government cross-departmental Physical Activity Strategy led by the Cabinet Office "setting out long-term, ambitious targets". It also recommends that The Department for Work and Pensions pilots a physical activity referral programme for the long-term unemployed, and low-interest loans to be made available to small firms so they can invest in physical activity schemes for staff.
Dr Manpinder Sahota, a GP from Pelham Medical Practice in Kent, has recently started referring patients to UKActive’s Let’s Get Moving programme. Reflecting on his experience he said: “With most public health programmes, volunteers are self-selecting – they’re often the people who are already looking to improve their health.
"Running courses like this through GP surgeries makes much more sense, because we can identify which patients can make the most positive difference to their lives and reduce the burden on the NHS in the future.”