Government’s ‘cycling on prescription’ pilot to roll out in 11 locations across England
The Government announced a new programme yesterday, Monday 22 August, where GPs will start to prescribe cycling, walking and wheeling to improve physical and mental health and tackle health inequalities.
The programme will see eleven local authorities in England benefit from £12.7 million of funding from the Department for Transport and start later this year.
GPs will issue prescriptions as part of the three-year trial, which will include adult cycle training, free bike loans and cycling and walking groups.
We know the cost-of-living crisis is already having a detrimental impact on people’s well-being and is likely to further burden the NHS. This expansion of a proven and effective initiative is timely and will be a practical way to help ease those pressures
Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK's chief executive
In addition, the government states it will provide all-ability cycling taster days for people who may not have cycled before, to try it in a friendly environment, or walking and cycling mental health groups where people can connect with their communities as they get active. Prescriptions will also include wheeling for wheelchair or mobility scooter users.
Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK’s chief executive, said:
“A social prescription pilot to help people get more active has been one of the Government’s commitments since it announced its Gear Change plan in 2020, so it’s great to see these promises delivered on.
“Cycling UK has been running the pioneering Cycle for Health programme in West Yorkshire for five years, and we’ve seen the difference we can make to people’s quality of life through a targeted cycling initiative in a social setting. Our data shows clear increases in people's cycling, and in meeting the recommended levels of physical activity following participation in the scheme.
“We know the cost-of-living crisis is already having a detrimental impact on people’s well-being and is likely to further burden the NHS. This expansion of a proven and effective initiative is timely and will be a practical way to help ease those pressures.”
Cycling UK has been delivering Cycle for Health, funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme, for five years, successfully providing a route into regular activity for adults with poor mental or physical health in areas of income and health inequality.
The programme benefits a broad range of people, allowing them to gain confidence, develop skills and overcome social isolation.
The Government has said authorities must improve infrastructure alongside the trials so people feel safe undertaking the activities.
The pilots will start this year and run until 2025 in Bath and North East Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire.
The aim of the trials is to evaluate the impact of cycling and walking on an individuals’ health, for example through reduced GP appointments and reliance on medication due to higher levels of physical activity.
The programme is designed as a ‘whole systems approach’, where for the first time, transport, active travel and health officials will work together to improve health outcomes and tackle health disparities.