A GP practice in Leiston is the first in Suffolk to be formally registered as a parkrun practice, with its local parkrun based at Sizewell.

Earlier this year (June 2018), parkrun UK and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) launched a groundbreaking national initiative which sees patients being ‘prescribed’ outdoor physical activity rather than medication.

The social prescribing initiative looks to join GP practices with their local parkruns and promote the opportunity it provides for their patients to get active.

parkruns are free, weekly events organised by local volunteer teams in over 750 locations across the UK. Participants can choose either the 5k parkrun for all ages (from 4+), every Saturday morning or 2k junior parkrun for 4-14 year olds and their families on Sunday mornings. Around 2,000 participants take part in parkruns across Suffolk every week. Since its inaugural run on the 25th August 2018, a total of 1011 runs have been completed at the Sizewell event.

A parkrun practice makes a commitment to promoting local parkrun events to patients, supporting the UK-wide movement to scale up social prescribing activities. Involvement in this initiative will help develop a local community and environment centred around wellness, helping to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and practice staff and reduce the need for lifelong medication. The practice GPs do not have to be a member of RCGP to take part in this initiative.

Cllr James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Health, said: “This is great news for Suffolk and our ambition is to see more GP practices partner with their local parkrun events in the county and become parkrun practices.

“Through the Most Active County partnership, we have been working collaboratively with a range of organisations to make a difference to physical activity levels within the county. 14 parkrun events currently operate in Suffolk and we are keen to develop more through the Most Active County programme.

“We know that social prescribing can help to reduce the significant life-limiting effects of physical inactivity. 1 in 12 patients would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse. Earlier in the year, Suffolk was chosen by Public Health England as one of 10 areas in a pilot to enable health care professionals to give brief advice on physical activity as part of their routine clinical practice. So far 95 healthcare professionals have received training across Suffolk.

“Looking forward, our ambition is to bring about greater action on inactivity by working with more organisations to ensure physical activity is integrated into as many aspects of life as possible.”

Chrissie Wellington, Global Head of Health and Wellbeing at parkrun said: “This exciting and game-changing initiative with the Royal College of General Practitioners ( RCGP) is a tremendous opportunity for all staff and patients to realise the wide-ranging health benefits that parkrun participation can bring, and we are delighted to see that the concept is being embraced in Suffolk. It has been a revelation in helping us to encourage GP practices across the country to forge really beneficial partnerships with their local parkruns, with more than 500 GP surgeries across the UK becoming accredited parkrun practices. We would urge any GP practice in Suffolk that is interested in becoming a parkrun practice to get in touch with your local event and come along to see it for yourself.”

Other GP practices in Suffolk are taking this advice and are now following Leiston’s lead, with a number of GP practices working with NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group to create parkrun practices linked with the Ipswich parkrun in Chantry and Christchurch parks.

Dr Juno Jesuthasan, a GP in Ipswich and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG lead for prevention and self-care, said: “Physical inactivity is one of the major public health problems of the 21st century , affecting both our physical and mental wellbeing.

“Many staff at GP practices already actively engage with their patients on how taking more exercise can be bring a host of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

“The parkrun practice is an initiative that we support and hope that other GP practices will sign up and encourage many more people to get active.

“Taking exercise combined with cutting out the carbs, such as potatoes and pasta, can bring about effective weight loss and positive health benefits.”

Practices can contact their local parkrun event team for more information about becoming a parkrun practice or visit www.rcgp.org.uk/parkrun.

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