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Doctors should prescribe walks to save NHS money says Kent County Council's Matthew Balfour

A councillor used a meeting of Kent County Council's public health committee to claim GPs should be prescribing walks in the countryside to save the NHS money.

Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con) believes going outside could do more for patients' health than "a handful of pills".

However, GPs have said they should not be expected to save money because the government has not funded the NHS adequately.

Doctors should prescribe walking to save the NHS money, according to a councillor
Doctors should prescribe walking to save the NHS money, according to a councillor

Cllr Balfour said: "If the doctors would only, rather than a handful of pills, prescribe somebody to go for a walk in one of our country parks everyday we would save money for the NHS.

"There are loads of studies across the country that have shown huge benefits for just being outside.

"I mean the Japanese do it and have special walks that they can prescribe.

"Why can't we do that? Why shouldn't we be doing that?"

"If the doctors would only, rather than a handful of pills, prescribe somebody to go for a walk in one of our country parks everyday we would save money for the NHS..." - Cllr Matthew Balfour

Cllr Geoff Lymer (Con) echoed his colleagues' concerns at the public health and health reform cabinet committee on Wednesday.

He added some members of the community can be seen walking for miles.

He said: "We should take a leaf out of the books in Shepway, where a lot of the Nepalese, former Gurkhas, see their families walking miles.

"You would see them five miles plus away from Folkestone and they don't seem to have the mental health problems that some of the indigenous do."

Cllr. Matthew Balfour (7827420)
Cllr. Matthew Balfour (7827420)

KCC's deputy director of public health Dr Allison Duggal reassured councillors her department is on the case.

She said: "This is something we are looking at as part of the local care and multidisciplinary teams and also the work we are doing about making every contact count trying to help people with physical activity.

"There's a lot of evidence around being outside, being in green spaces and so absolutely we are going to try and promote that."

However Dr Zishan Syed, a partner at The Mote Medical Practice in Maidstone, says while GPs offer lifestyle advice, this form of prescription is not "necessarily needed".

He said: "A past BMJ(British Medical Journal) study concerning social prescribing advised that 'current evidence fails to provide sufficient detail to judge either success or value for money'.

"It would therefore be unreasonable to expect GPs to support any non evidence based practice such as social prescribing."

Dy Syed added it is not the general practitioner's job to look after the NHS' cash but instead treat the patient.

He said: "GPs are required to serve the best interests of their patients.

"GPs should not be expected to save moneydue to the government not funding the NHS adequately.

"Politicans would do well to support frontline GPs rather than scapegoating them for systemic failings beyond GP control."

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