Exercise referrals hampered by ‘rationing of public health services’
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Exercise referrals hampered by ‘rationing of public health services’

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Some obese and inactive NHS patients are unable to access public health initiatives designed to improve their wellbeing because budget cuts are causing these services to be rationed, according to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

RSPH survey of public health workers revealed that cuts are having a direct impact on frontline services which are key to combatting Britain’s inactivity crisis such as weight management and exercise referral schemes.

“This snapshot suggests that funding cuts are beginning to bite and are having a direct impact on frontline services,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH.

“A strategy which undermines prevention defies logic and is only storing up problems for the future, which will be amplified in terms of cost and impact to our nation’s health.”

The findings come just days after King’s College London researchers revealed the results of another study which found GP referrals for weight management and physical activity programmes are failing to curb obesity. Both pieces of research add to the ongoing debate on how to boost the efficacy of GP referrals and achieve long-term healthier lifestyles through behaviour change on a national scale.

The physical activity sector has been leading the way in offering its exercise and weight management skills to facilitate GP referrals, however experts have identified a need to work more closely with frontline healthcare professionals to boost the effectiveness of referrals. A recent white paper produced by Technogym concluded that the industry must build greater confidence among healthcare professionals and stakeholders in exercise referral programmes.

The RSPH survey found that weight management and exercise referral schemes are the services which health workers have seen most commonly rationed. Nearly 50 per cent of respondents had seen cuts impact on the availability of weight management schemes, while 44 per cent said the same for exercise referrals. Other services suffering under austerity include Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (32 per cent), sexual health (28 per cent) and Smoking cessation (26 per cent).

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Some obese and inactive NHS patients are unable to access public health initiatives designed to improve their wellbeing because budget cuts are causing these services to be rationed, according to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
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