Cornwall Council has recently announced it is to receive over £840,000 of government funding to use in trials of a new national scheme that enables health professionals to refer patients to walking and cycling activities.
The funding, from the Department for Transport (DfT), will enable health professionals in Cornwall to prescribe cycling and walking activities as part of a patient’s treatment plan.
This is the first time that such a scheme has been piloted in England and it is hoped that it will help to increase levels of physical activity among those who are least active.
Nick Smith of ExploreCornwall.uk, a website that promotes active travel in Cornwall said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to get more people active, improve their health and wellbeing, and enjoy our beautiful county. Walking and cycling are great forms of exercise, and this initiative will make it easier for people to get active.”
The pilot scheme will focus on the three areas of Cornwall identified as having higher than average levels of poor health – Bodmin, Penzance, and St Austell.
The project will involve health professionals, such as GPs and social prescribers, referring patients to groups that will help them be more active through cycling or walking. The project will target adults who have poor mental health and wellbeing, physical health problems like long term conditions, disabilities, unemployed adults, and adults over 50.
Locally delivered projects are set to include:
- Cycle confidence courses
- Adaptive cycle sessions
- Access to bikes through cycle loans
- Access to e-bikes through a loan initiative
- Local bike banks
- Cycle maintenance training
- Walking groups
Cornwall Council will now look for a partner to help deliver the project and consult with local communities about improving health through active travel.
Rachel Wigglesworth, Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said:
“We already have experience of social prescribing in our GP practices, to a range of activities to improve health and wellbeing, so it is fantastic news that Cornwall has been chosen to taken part in this exciting pilot.
“We all know that walking and cycling are good for us but often there are barriers that might stop people from doing them, such as a lack of confidence or safety concerns.
“Under this scheme, when a patient visits their local surgery with a health issue, if appropriate a health professional can talk to them about the benefits of exercise and refer them to a range of groups that can help them get cycling and walking safely.”
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, Portfolio Holder for Adult and Public Health, said:
“I’m really looking forward to seeing this scheme up and running as I have no doubt that it can make a huge difference to people’s lives.
“The more people we can help to feel confident taking regular exercise, the healthier our communities will be for generations to come. This scheme is a great step towards achieving that goal.”