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New toolkit aims to help GPs encourage physical activity

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Posted 12th August 2019

Sport England have teamed up with the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) to launch the Active Practice Charter that inspires and celebrates GP practices that are taking steps to increase activity in their patients and staff.

With one in four people saying they would be more active if it was recommended by a GP or nurse, the charter includes a toolkit that will support time-poor GPs to raise the subject of activity with patients and achieve Active Practice status.

INVESTMENT

The charter is part of our Physical Activity and Lifestyle partnership with RCGP, supported by £160,400 of National Lottery funding

The charter will support around 8,000 GP practices in the UK and aims to help them raise awareness of the simple changes that can be made to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of patients and staff.

With physical inactivity estimated to cost the nation £7.4 billion a year, our chief executive Tim Hollingsworth has welcomed the charter’s introduction.

“Physical activity has a key role to play in helping people manage and improve their health and wellbeing,” he said.

“As trusted sources of information, GPs and practice teams have a real opportunity to start discussions that help it become the new normal in their community – for prevention as well as treatment.

“This toolkit will help busy GPs talk to patients about getting active and recommend local opportunities as part of their routine practice.

“We’re delighted to be celebrating those GP practices who are promoting active lifestyles to patients and staff through the Active Practice Charter.”

Research shows that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by as much as 35% and decrease the risk of early death by as much as 30%.

And this charter builds on previous work aiming to boost the nation’s activity levels, including an initiative that sees GP practices encouraged to develop closer links with their local parkrun to become certified ‘parkrun practices’.

GPs and practice teams have a real opportunity to start discussions that help it become the new normal in their community

Tim Hollingsworth, our chief executive

However, while many GPs already promote physical activity, barriers to prescribing exercise or discussing physical activity have been identified – for example, GPs not having enough time in consultations to have effective conversations with patients.

“Busy GPs can’t be expected to do everything when it comes to getting the nation more active, but we can play a vital role in starting the conversation with patients,” said Dr Andrew Boyd, RCGP clinical champion for physical activity and lifestyle.

“By making small changes in our own workplace – using standing desks, encouraging active transport for staff, and partnering with local physical activity providers, for example – we can demonstrate to patients that being more active is good for everyone’s physical and mental health.”

While professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of RCGPs, added: “All GPs know that encouraging patients to be more active can have huge benefits on their health and wellbeing and, in some cases, drastically improve conditions such as diabetes and heart disease – even dementia.

“But having the time to advise patients on lifestyle in the current 10-minute consultation can be a huge challenge, especially when there are often so many other things we need to discuss and when this probably wasn’t the reason the patient has made the appointment – so taking a practice-wide approach to encouraging healthier lifestyles, for all of us, is a great idea.”

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

  • GPs can visit the Active Practice Charter site to find out more and work as a practice to develop plans to become an accredited practice.
  • The Physical Activity and Lifestyle Toolkit can be downloaded to help healthcare professionals embed physical activity within the conversations they’re having with patients, where appropriate.
  • Healthcare professionals can access Public Health England’s Physical Activity Clinical Champions Training to get face to face training on embedding physical activity within their everyday work. To find out more, or to book a session, email physicalactivity@phe.gov.uk

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