Headlines: July 1st, 2009

Only half of GPs are able to refer patients with depression to exercise schemes five years after guidance recommended exercise as a treatment in mild to moderate cases. A new report from the Mental Health Foundation says a number of factors are preventing patients getting exercise on prescription.

The report, ‘Moving on up’ says clinical guidelines published in 2004 supported the use of exercise in some cases but research has shown just 49 per cent of GPs report that they have access to an exercise referral scheme. The Foundation says barriers to patients getting the treatment include funding constraints within local government and primary care trusts. There is also a lack of awareness of exercise schemes amongst GPs and other healthcare professionals. The charity says these barriers have to be overcome.

Its report finds that more than 8 out of ten GPs who do have access to an exercise referral scheme use it as a treatment for their patients. People with depression who have been referred to the schemes also report a number of benefits that include feeling mentally and physically stronger, increased confidence, and reduced isolation.

‘Moving on up’ makes a series of recommendations for commissioners and providers to improve the availability and use of exercise therapy, including calling on PCTs and commissioners in local authorities to fund the development of a range of exercise activities. It also wants to see health professionals in primary care develop closer links with exercise staff working in referral schemes and agreed clear and simple referral protocols.