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Social prescribing, where health professionals prescribe physical activity and sport, is key to tackling Scotland’s health issues, say the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee.

The Committee’s latest report says it has no doubts about the value of social prescribing. They say it helps to promote physical activity, tackle loneliness and social isolation, prevent long term conditions and reduce dependence on pharmaceutical prescriptions. The UK Chief Medical Officers agree that ‘if physical activity were a drug, we would refer to it as a miracle cure’.

The Committee’s report makes clear that the prescribing of social and physical activity should be regarded as an investment not a cost, and used as a preventative health measure to stop people becoming ill, rather than just as a reactive response to health issues.

The report also states that social prescribing and wider preventative action has the potential to ease the current pressure on health and social care services, as well as reducing waiting times, unplanned hospital admissions and delayed discharges.

The Committee is seeking a financial commitment from Integration Authorities that 5% of budgets will be spent on social prescribing within the next two years, helping increase physical activity and improve the nation’s health.

Lewis Macdonald MSP, Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said:

“The value of social prescribing is indisputable helping to improve health and wellbeing while reducing pressure on our health and social care services. We want to see social prescriptions treated as equal to medical prescriptions.

“However, social prescribing should not be seen as a cost-free alternative to medical prescriptions. It is in fact an investment in the health and wellbeing of our country’s citizens and should be used not just as a reactive health measure but as a preventative measure from our earliest years.

“Access to services and suitable physical activities is key and the Committee want to see a funding commitment from the Government which helps fund the infrastructure to provide these services.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport seems convinced of the need for such initiatives, so we want to know why this is not being delivered at scale across all NHS boards and Integration Authorities.

“We also want to see the growing inequality gap between active and non-active populations, with its consequential health and wellbeing impacts, addressed urgently. The majority of any government investment in social prescribing should be spent in the most deprived areas to help tackle this inequality.”

The Committee has also asked for a further update on the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver 250 additional link workers across Scotland, including detail on where these posts will be based and their remit. The Committee is clear link workers should be tasked with helping break down any barriers people face to taking part in sport and physical activity.

More information on the inquiry can be found here:

https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/112371.aspx

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