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Funding needed to 'narrow gap' between doctors and physical activity sector

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Physical activity advocate Dr Zoe Williams has called for support and funding for new initiatives designed to forge closer links between the fitness sector and GP surgeries across the country.

Williams is one of the nominated clinical champions who’s spearheading the new RCGP (Royal College of General Practitioners) initiative to make physical activity and lifestyle a clinical priority for GPs across the UK (see HCM Oct 16, p58).

As she explained when the project launched last year: “The overall aims of the project are to provide the primary care workforce with focused, reliable, evidence-based information to prevent and manage lifestyle-related diseases.”

This has now progressed into a work plan which the team is keen to progress over the next three years – but it will, says Williams, rely on partners to turn this into a reality. Conversations are already taking place with both ukactive and Sport England, but Williams is keen that individual operators also embrace the agenda.

The first goal is to create ‘Active Practices’, whereby links would be forged between GP practices and local activity providers. In a bid to boost activity levels across the board, the latter would be invited into the practice to run physical activities for patients and staff alike.

“The GP surgery shouldn’t be a sedentary place,” says Williams. “We need to get GPs talking about activity on a daily basis, but we also need to get them up and moving. Simon Tobin’s practice in Southport is an excellent example: the staff and patients go and do parkruns together.”

The steering group is also developing a GP toolkit. Firstly, this will provide hands-on information: activity vlogs for GPs to use with patients, enabling them to suggest appropriate exercises to train strength, balance, co-ordination and so on.

Secondly, the toolkit will offer signposting, creating clear links between CCGs, local activity providers and GPs, giving guidance for CCGs and ensuring GPs know what resources are available in the local area.

Funding is now being sought to move forward with these initiatives, as the project – although set up by the RCGP – isn’t funded by the organisation. “We need funding to turn our ideas into reality,” Williams said.

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Physical activity advocate Dr Zoe Williams has called for support and funding for new initiatives designed to forge closer links between the fitness sector and GP surgeries across the country.
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