A programme where GPs and health care professionals prescribe physical activity for patients as part of their treatment has been a major success in Wiltshire since it began a year ago.

Launched in February 2012 by Wiltshire Council, NHS Wiltshire and DC Leisure, Active Health as a physical activity referral programme for people with specific medical conditions.

The Active Health programme has seen 97 per cent of GPs signing up to deliver Active Health and over 2,000 referrals have been made.

Of those referrals, 28 per cent have completed their 12 week programme giving the county one of the highest completion rates in the country.

The programme aims to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, cancer, depression and other conditions by encouraging increased levels of physical activity in patients who meet the referral criteria.

Maggie Rae, corporate director, said: “I am delighted to see the success of the Active Health programme 12 months on. The scheme has been made possible by partnership working across many organisations, notably NHS Wiltshire, Wiltshire Council, DC Leisure and with GPs and other colleagues working in healthcare.

“It has become increasingly clear in recent years that physical activity should be encouraged across the population as there is a clear link between lack of physical activity and chronic disease. The risks of engaging in physical activity are low for most of the population, but the risks of poor health resulting from inactivity are high. Here in Wiltshire, we are keen to give people who can benefit from increasing physical activity the opportunity to access a range of opportunities that can help to improve their health.”         

People wanting to participate in the Active Health programme should arrange an appointment with their GP to discuss if they are suitable for referral.

Wiltshire Councillor Stuart Wheeler, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for leisure and sport, said: “Wiltshire Council has a key role to play in encouraging everyone in the community to increase their participation in sports and physical activity. Not only for personal fulfilment, but for improving health and well-being.

“For specific health conditions, such as stroke and cardiac problems, physical activity can contribute to increased independence, enhanced quality of life and reduction in reliance on traditional treatments and medication. This is a true partnership approach between NHS Wiltshire, Wiltshire Council and DC Leisure and one that we believe will continue to make a difference to the quality of life for many people in our community.”