New GP guidelines help patients and staff get fit

Author: Mark Gould
New GP guidelines help patients and staff get fit

New resources will support around 8,000 GP practices across the UK, by raising awareness of the simple changes that can be made to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of patients and staff, such as signposting to local exercise classes or partnering with a nearby activity provider.

The Physical Activity and Lifestyle toolkit will help practices achieve Active Practice status. It contains a comprehensive selection of condition-specific information that can be used to help all healthcare professionals – including the Moving Medicine website, a step by step guide to conversations with patients about physical activity.

The toolkit ties in with the Active Practice Charter launched today by The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Sport England that builds on an existing initiative where GP practices have been encouraged to develop closer links with their local parkrun to become certified “parkrun practices.”

The Charter – which is supported by a £160,000 National Lottery investment from Sport England – outlines the key principles of what it means for a practice to be “active”, and the steps GPs and their teams can take to get there.

To become an Active Practice and receive a certificate recognising their status, surgeries will demonstrate that they have taken a number of steps, including:

  • Increasing physical activity in patients and staff
  • Reducing sedentary behaviour in patients and staff
  • Partnering with a local physical activity provider to support the practice to get more people active

One in four patients say they would be more active if it was recommended by a GP or nurse. And while many GPs already promote physical activity in their surgeries, some identify barriers to prescribing exercise or discussing physical activity – for example, not having enough time in the consultation to have effective conversations with patients.

Dr Andrew Boyd, RCGP clinical champion for physical activity and lifestyle 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 Tim Hollingworth said: "Physical activity has a key role to play in helping people manage and improve their health and wellbeing. As trusted sources of information, GPs and practice teams have a real opportunity to start discussions that help it become the new normal in their community – for prevention as well as treatment.

"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."

The Physical Activity and Lifestyle Toolkit can be downloaded to help healthcare professionals embed physical activity within the conversations they are having with patients where appropriate.

Healthcare professionals can access Public Health England's Physical Activity Clinical Champions Training to receive face to face training on embedding physical activity within their everyday work. To find out more or to book a session contact: