Headlines: April 10th, 2001

Keeping healthy and recovering from illness is as much about fitness as popping pills. The three hundred exercise referral schemes up and running around the country will be improved and new projects will be developed as a result of new national standards for exercise referral by GPs. Exercise on prescription has proved particularly valuable for coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and mental health problems, including depression. The National Quality Assurance Framework was commissioned by the Department of Health and written by representatives of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences and Exercise England.The framework covers services for patients referred by their GP or practice nurse to supervised exercise programmes usually delivered through gyms and local leisure centres. GPs, primary care nurses and registered fitness professionals will now be able to offer high-quality supervised exercise referral programmes to all patients who will benefit from them. The new national standards will help to identify patients for referral and the right scheme for them to be referred to, clarifying responsibility of clinicians and qualified registered fitness professionals and assisting NHS trusts to incorporate exercise as part of a cardiac referral programme.