RCGP parkrun programme signs up over 400 practices in three months

The RCGP's parkrun partnership - launched in June this year as a means of 'prescribing' active lifestyles to patients and staff - has already signed up 424 GP practices across the UK.

Dr Andrew Boyd, joint RCGP clinical champion for activity and lifestyle (Photo: Pete Hill)
Dr Andrew Boyd, joint RCGP clinical champion for activity and lifestyle (Photo: Pete Hill)

Speaking at the college’s annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday, RCGP physical activity and lifestyle champion Dr Andrew Boyd said the parkrun scheme had proved ‘so much of a success so quickly’ that it should become ‘a blueprint for what a modern day general practice surgery can look like moving forward’.

The initiative aims to reduce the need for lifelong medication by improving the health and wellbeing of patients, carers and healthcare staff through physical exercise.

Certified ‘parkrun practices’ are affiliated with their local parkrun event, and staff can signpost patients and carers - particularly those who are inactive or have long-term health conditions - to the free weekly 5km events.

Dr Boyd said the partnership was ‘set up in response to that recognition among so many of of us that the "pill for every ailment" mentality only goes so far and that being a GP in the 21st century is actually so much more than that and that. One of out biggest jobs is to inspire and empower patients to make positive lifestyle decisions and choices around healthy eating, activity and that sort of thing.’

He said that the parkrun partnership gave surgeries the opportunity to ‘transform into beacons of good practice’ by facilitating positive relationships between primary care and local lifestyle and physical activity providers.

Transforming patients' lives

Also speaking at the event, Southport GP and parkrun health and wellbeing ambassador Dr Simon Tobin described how his own practice was ‘transforming patients’ lives’ through its affiliation with parkrun.

Dr Tobin’s case studies included one patient who had managed to reverse his type 2 diabetes after he started running weekly 5ks with parkrun and another blind patient who was able to run for the first time with a guide at her local parkrun and went on to complete the London Marathon this year.

He said: ‘Physical activity is probably the best medicine that any of us can prescribe… [and] talking to those patients who least look like runners who are going to benefit most.'

In addition, parkrun global head of health and wellbeing Chrissie Wellington highlighted how parkrun events can help tackle issues such as social isolation as well as physical fitness, adding: ‘We need to see activity in the widest widest sense. We need to build communities that are sentenced on wellness and that’s really what parkrun is about.

‘[This is] a fantastic example of how collaboration can really really drive change.’

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