‘Doncaster GPs should have power to prescribe free leisure centre fitness classes for obese residents’ says councils’ network

GPs should be able to prescribe free leisure centre fitness classes for obese residents in Doncaster and elswhere in order to improve their health, councils have said.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 5:38 pm
The waiting area of a General Practitioners surgery. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
The waiting area of a General Practitioners surgery. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

The District Councils’ Network, which represents nearly 200 local authorities across the country, made the call following new research which shows it could increase life expectancy by nearly four years and save the health services millions per year.

Doncaster has some of the most inactive communities in the country but DMBC has put in place various strategies aiming to change the picture.

Analysis in previous reports shows around 33 per cent of Doncaster residents are sedentary, performing less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week and in the most deprived communities, this figure rises to almost 66 per cent.

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The study carried out for the DCN, found that prescribing local leisure services to one million inactive people over the next decade could; avoid nearly 50,000 preventable diseases

It also said it could save the NHS more than £300 million and provide an economic boost of over £4 billion in quality-adjusted life year gains.

The DCN, which represents councils with responsibility for leisure services, is calling for a fundamental shift in health services, in anticipation of the Government’s imminent Health Disparities White Paper.

It wants doctors to develop prescription pathways to leisure centres run by councils and sports partners, so that anyone can be routinely referred to this type of community support.

Councils are also calling on the Government to invest in sport and leisure services to which would provide a ‘golden opportunity’ to avert pressures on health and social care services further down the line.

Councils are the biggest provider of leisure and fitness services in the country, owning 2,727 leisure centres, 33 per cent of all swimming pools and 31 per cent of the grass pitches in England.

Coun Angie Dale, healthy communities spokesperson for the DCN, said:

“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is vital we embrace this as an opportunity to get the nation fit and healthy, and to continue protecting and supporting our NHS by preventing illness and disease where we can.

“Our new report shows conclusively that local leisure centres can play a vital role in keeping people fit, and prescribing these services to people can increase life expectancy by up to four years.

“By providing long-term investment and integrating our councils’ excellent leisure and wellbeing services into health systems, we can increase life expectancy and tackle growing health inequalities. This is levelling up in action.”