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GPs go forth

RCGP launches toolkit to incentivise promoting active lifestyles

The RCGP has unveiled an 'active practice' toolkit in a bid to incentivise GP practices to promote active lifestyles within patients and staff.

Launched in collaboration with Sport England, which uses National Lottery investment, the toolkit will be available to all practices across the UK - approximately 8,000 practices. 

The active practice charter encourages practices to sign up to learn how to make small changes in their surgery, such as standing desks and sending exercise advice to targeted disease groups.

The RCGP said the toolkit builds on existing initiatives and includes resources on how to partner with local activity providers such as local exercise classes or parkrun providers.

Practices who can demonstrate they have taken steps to increase physical activity in patients and staff will receive a certificate acknowledging their 'active practice' status.

The aim is to help busy GPs to start up a conversation about exercise with patients, according to Dr Andrew Boyd, the RCGP's clinical champion for physical activity and lifestyle.

He said: '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.

'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.'

Sport England chief executive CEO Tim Hollingworth said: '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.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: '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.'

It follows calls from the RCGP for 15-minute appointment times as standard in general practice. 

Readers' comments (6)

  • Unfunded work with colouring books and stickers as a reward. Of course, nobody could possibly do any exercise unless their doctor told them to. Of course, no doctor can give health advice without a toolkit. Infantilising patients and doctors. Why do people still fund the clowns in the College?

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  • FFS a certificate for the practice encouraging patients to exercise!

    I’ll do better than that, picture of me finishing first triathlon above desk.

    If I can do it then any lard arse slothful patient can!

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  • I first learnt the value of exercise at work when I was a medical student at Newcastle, and the whole Geriatric department ( apart fro those 'on call') took time out to go to the swimming baths. The professor was before his time. Our medical school also had a table tennis table, and a gym built into the basement.

    Throughout my professional life I always managed to swim twice a week ( at lunch time), even if the bath life guard minded my bleep or later on my phone and dragged me out of the water if needed urgently. I used to take my medical students swimming in the same way as I experienced at a student of geriatrics. As the on call in the evening was taken away from us I used to the my F2 doctors swimming as some of them were from overseas and it was the first time in the UK for them. They were rather isolated.

    I and my medical colleagues over the years raised many pounds in sponsorship for sponsored swims for Children in Need. I was reminded this weekend how we had a group calling ourselves 'Mixed Scouse' as we were 50% caucasian and 50% asian.

    The important thing on reflection is to prioritise the exercise. I never let meetings get in the way of my two lunch time swims. I used to see other like minded GPs in the swimming baths at lunch time. Even if the paper work came home with me, lunch time swims were about quality of working life.

    In retirement, I continue to swim and play table-tennis- old habits die hard. We should try to educate our students and young doctors as to the value of exercise on physical and mental health and ensure that there is protected time for such activity.

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  • Disclaimer- I'm one of the team working on this initiative as Clinical Lead for physical activity & lifestyle.

    Stelvio, sorry to hear you're not on board with the initiative. Yes it is unfunded for practices who sign up, (we have lobbied for physical activity to form part of QOF).

    I must challenge your comments. To be clear, we are not suggesting that patients can't exercise without the nod from their doctor (in fact the best case scenario is when the doctor isn't involved). But particularly for those who are disenfranchised by society in other ways (poorer, sicker, older, non white etc etc) a nudge from their GP to say it's ok to move more can be the difference between sitting at home and taking a daily walk, which can in time be the difference between living independently or not. And nor are we suggesting doctors 'can't' give health advice without a toolkit. But when we surveyed the RCGP membership, the single biggest request was for more online material on the subject so we worked hard to produce this. Finally, the Charter is not mandatory in any way, it is a fun light touch way to encourage practices to demonstrate that they're a beacon of health in their communities.

    You're welcome to contact us directly if you'd like more information.

    Thanks, Andrew

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  • A certificate is not an incentive
    Is surveying the rcgp membership the only basis for this?
    Has it been shown that people do not know they need to exercise? That they aren't advised to by their gp practice?
    I look at the toolkit and every pdf essentially says the same thing - common sense
    I struggle to see how the dancing chap in the white coat on the moving medicine website is really going to help that disenfranchised person you make reference to.
    I wonder if there is any way of finding out how much money went into preparing this all for a "nudge" which is already included as part of various templates for chronic disease.

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  • Andrew, it's worrying you say you surveyed the RCGP membership and online access to advice about exercise and activity was their biggest concern. I suspect that if I surveyed the non rcgp members who are spedning more time seeing patients I suspect that won't be anywhere near the top of the list given the plethora of information on t'internet.
    When you launch a toolkit you do infact introduce a hurdle that would put people off, luckily I'm not a member but this is one more RCGP initiative that will at best do very little and at most stand in the way. Theres a waiting time for 2 months for coronary revascularisation surgery, and 4 weeks to see a GP, it's a bit tough to see money being spent on this.

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