Physical activity and lifestyle is set to be a clinical priority for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) for the next three years.
From 2016 to 2019, the RCGP aims to support primary care professionals with reliable, evidence-based information to prevent and manage lifestyle-related diseases.
Lifestyle and environmental factors are leading causes of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and liver disease.
All of these diseases could be prevented or better treated through addressing diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol consumption and psychosocial factors.
The RCGP aims to help GPs, who see 90% of NHS patient contacts, manage their patients’ physical health, and ultimately reduce long-term pressure on the health service.
Dr Zoe Williams and Dr Andrew Boyd have been made joint clinical champions for the programme.
Williams said: “Despite one in six deaths being preventable by increasing physical activity, GPs often feel ill equipped, due to lack of training, time and incentives, to discuss physical activity levels with patients.
“I’m delighted to take up this role and over the next three years aim to influence general practice staff and patients alike to make improvements to their lifestyle, and in doing so reduce demand on primary care, and the wider NHS, at a time when workload pressures are overbearing.”
The programme is run in partnership with the Nuffield Department of Primary Care and Health Sciences at the University of Oxford.
In a joint comment on why physical activity and lifestyle should be a priority for general practice, Brian Johnson, David Nunan, Kamal Mahtani and Christine Haseler, from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “There is an urgent need to reduce the growing burden of lifestyle related diseases, which cost the NHS billions every year.
“Through this work, we aim to support GPs and nurses access reliable, evidence-based information and training to aid shared-decisions and better support their patients in achieving healthier lifestyles.”
Other clinical priorities currently include autistic spectrum disorders, cancer, end of life care and mental health.
Find out more about the RCGP’s clinical priorities programme here.