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Referrals for exercise 'a waste of money'

Referring patients to exercise schemes may be a waste of time and money, research suggests. Drop-out rates are high and many patients do not even turn up for their first session, according to results from a pilot scheme in Greater Glasgow.

In the scheme, which has been running since 1997, 22 per cent of patients missed their initial appointment with a counsellor and only 31 per cent stuck with the exercise programme for the prescribed 12 months.

The results came as a randomised controlled trial at Bolton PCT also suggested that exercise referral was of questionable value. Dr Roger Harrison, research scientist at the public health department of Bolton PCT, said: 'They don't seem to be successful in leading to sustained levels of physical activity in a reasonable number of people.'

Dr Harrison presented his results at the UK Faculty of Public Health conference in Edinburgh last week.

Dr Colin Guthrie, a GP in Glasgow, said he had stopped referring to the scheme, saying the money would be better spent on improving the local environment to encourage people to cycle or walk.

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