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GPs in London start prescribing fruit and veg in £250k pilot

GPs in London start prescribing fruit and veg in £250k pilot

GPs in two deprived London boroughs have begun prescribing fruit and vegetables to patients as part of a pilot.

Backed by £250,000 of funding from local authorities in Tower Hamlets and Lambeth and a charity, the pilot will assess whether such an approach can help tackle diet-related ill health and food insecurity

Those taking part will be prescribed vouchers for fruit and veg worth between £6 to £8 per week plus £2 per week for each household member, which they can spend with local retailers and market trader.

The pilot – thought to be the largest of its kind so far in the UK – is being done partnership with the Bromley by Bow GP Centre in Tower Hamlets and The Beacon Project in Lambeth.

In Tower Hamlets, patients will also be invited to take part in monthly healthy lifestyle group sessions to improve their understanding of nutrition and health.

The vouchers are being offered through the Alexandra Rose Charity, which already has a project to help families on low incomes buy fresh fruit and veg.

Over a year, vouchers will be distributed to a target group of 122 residents across both boroughs who are at risk of, or have, conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or mental health conditions and are struggling financially.

When the pilot is evaluated, it could be rolled out across the UK subject to funding, organisers said.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that GPs would be asked to pilot prescribing of healthy food.

It followed a Government-commissioned paper which found that GPs should prescribe fruit and vegetables to people who have poor access to healthy food and PCNs should look at developing ‘Community Eatwell’ programmes’.

Professor Sir Sam Everington, a GP in Bromley by Bow, said all clinicians should embrace the prescription of fruit and veg. ‘So many long and short-term illnesses deteriorate significantly with a poor diet.

‘A healthy diet can often achieve far more than any medicines I can prescribe as a GP.

‘When I trained over 40 years ago, type 2 diabetes was a disease of the elderly. We are now seeing it in teenagers. Much of it is preventable with a healthy diet and good regular exercise. Fruit and veg should be part of every prescription.’

Dr Chi-Chi Ekhator, GP lead at the Beacon Project, said: ‘Fruit and veg on prescription is absolutely key to tackling health inequalities in many vulnerable communities.

‘As a GP, I continue to hear more and more from patients who have to make choices such as eating or heating as they grapple with the economic climate.

‘It is not surprising that choosing to purchase fruits and vegetables becomes less of a priority. This scheme aims to help those who are most vulnerable achieve better control of their health through lifestyle choices that are evidenced based and will indeed make a huge difference not only to the individual but also to the NHS as a whole.

Data released last week showed more than twice as many children are obese by aged five in the most, compared to the least, deprived areas.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Mr Marvellous 11 November, 2022 9:31 am

It’s this kind of stuff that makes me want to stop being a GP.

I didn’t sign up to medicine to hand out fruit or be involved in stopping knife crime.

Kevlar Cardie 11 November, 2022 9:46 am

Those avocados are a real ****** to get into the nebuliser.,

Not on your Nelly 11 November, 2022 9:55 am

What a waste of a Degree and years and years of hard of work and do a job that anyone can do. At least we will be appreciated as it looks like we are now doing something.

David Church 11 November, 2022 10:14 am

I do not agree with Dr Everington.
This should be the domain of public Health and Health and Nutrition Education (used to be called ‘domestic science’ when I was in school), and of the Social Security service and their staff. It should NOT fall to GPs to provide, and certainly not to ‘gatekeep’ to such social and financial support.
There are many places where we could do with more doctors doing Doctoring, and these sort of programmes should be run by appropriate people with funding from the appropriate social support and public health pots.
Perhaps Sam should devote more of his spare time (he obviously has lots spare from ‘doctoring’) to changing the political and social attitudes which lead to such deprivation, worker exploitation, and income disequality in the first place – ie change the government to one that cares about it’s responsibilities to it’s People.

Sujoy Biswas 11 November, 2022 10:38 am

Cardigan Primary care because doling out bananas is much safer than seeing patients and making clinical decisions but hey hum if you get paid the same who cares. Back to boiler checks again soon

Hot Felon 11 November, 2022 11:04 am

GP career progression – prescribe knife prevention and vegetables.
Mandatory modules on terrorism, suspicious-looking people in the waiting room, transgender, identifying as a man/woman/it/they/thing, hedge clippers, broccoli.
And there is always some committee numpty around to support it, and impressionable sheep to follow.
The profession is completely doomed.

David Turner 11 November, 2022 11:08 am

this sounds like a perfect job to delegate to the new social prescribers funded by ARRS

liam topham 11 November, 2022 12:23 pm

fruit and veg is generally cheaper than processed food – obviously you have to peel the spuds yourself which takes a bit of motivation
off topic but they are practically giving mackerel away – at significantly less cost than your average bag of frozen fish nuggets !


SUBHASH BHATT 11 November, 2022 12:29 pm

For a moment I thought , is it first of April ?

Michael Mullineux 11 November, 2022 12:39 pm

So are they actually seeing patients to ascertain whether they are entitled to a voucher for fruit and veg?

Thomas Kelly 11 November, 2022 12:45 pm

I am trying to get support from my PCN to start a scheme where us local GPs are responsible for pot holes in the roads. Patients can come to us and seek help and advice if they have been affected by potholes with any MSK or psychological problems. If they meet the required criteria the GP can refer to the pot hole survivor service filling on a 10 page qualitative referral form to give that patient additional support. I am also proposing an additional home visit slot where the GP can go out and mend any pot holes flagged by patients as part of a QOF for additional practice income.

Joe Josephus 11 November, 2022 1:45 pm

unfortunately, social prescribers will bounce these back to the GP as too high risk (eg medicine interactions with grapefruit/pomegranates; hyperkalaemia with bananas etc)

David Barrett 11 November, 2022 1:48 pm

I’m not gatekeeping a “fruit and Veg stall”

Patrufini Duffy 11 November, 2022 2:07 pm

Great comments here. Mid-life crisis – always convincing yourself you’re the savior to the world’s issues is comedy.

Mr Marvellous 11 November, 2022 2:16 pm

It’s a real pithy that they’re introducing this kind of initiative. It’s not appeeling at all – in fact it makes me sick to my core. They’re sowing the seeds of discontent with an overworked GP workforce – adding this kind of thing to the daily rind of GP doesn’t make sense. I see that some of my colleagues have pipped me to the post with the comments above though.

SUBHASH BHATT 11 November, 2022 2:27 pm

Practiced can start fruit and vegetable stall and
Earn extra .

Neil Tallant 11 November, 2022 7:11 pm

All of the above have said what needs to be said; stop!
I fully appreciate that we deal in some of the results of social inequalities but GPs “Prescribing” fruit and veg?? We are only medicalising social issues that we alone have no control over

Samir Shah 12 November, 2022 8:02 am

Here’s the new mandatory training for doctors participating in the pilot.
The assessment is being undevelopment by e-LfH.
Any queries, please contact Sir Derek Trotter.

Joking aside, I can see merits of the project in vulnerable groups. But surely the issue should be pushed by Public Health, given that GPs are essentially firefighting?

Hasmukh Makanji 12 November, 2022 1:41 pm

Put them on repeat prescriptions weekly. Problem solved

Stella Baker 13 November, 2022 11:45 am


Stella Baker 13 November, 2022 11:46 am

Meant Speechless

Patrufini Duffy 14 November, 2022 3:01 pm

But they’ll want gluten free lactose free vegan organic fruit. Now.