Exercise referral is dead. Long live social prescribing

Wednesday 9th May - 13:50-14:40

Exercise referral programmes have been around for many decades; the first such programmes were set up in the 1980s, with estimates suggesting there are now as many as 1,300 schemes operating across the UK.

Yet these programmes – in which primary healthcare professionals refer sedentary individuals with a variety of medical conditions into short-term, supervised programmes of physical activity – enjoy limited success, both in terms of patient adherence to the scheme and GPs’ willingness to prescribe exercise.

So is this approach ever going to work, or do we have to broaden our horizons – not viewing physical activity as a standalone solution, but rather as one of a range of options from which to choose based on the individual’s health needs? This is the argument of the ‘social prescribers’.

This session will explore why exercise referral doesn’t work, why social prescribing offers a viable alternative, how GPs can integrate this within their model of clinical care, and what the implications are for the physical activity sector and its relationship with primary healthcare professionals.

Dave Buck, Senior Fellow, Public Health and Inequalities at The Kings Fund

Panellists include:

Michael Dixon GP, Clinical Lead for Social Prescribing at NHS England

Dr William Bird MBE, CEO and Founder at Intelligent Health

Chrissie Wellington, Global Head of Health and Wellbeing at Park Run

Michelle Roberts, Physical Activity and Health Programme Manager at The Richmond Group of Charities

Emma Savage, Lead for Self-care & Prevention at NHS Clinical Commissioning Group