Fenland GPs need to make greater use of the area’s leisure centres to help patients especially those with mental health issues.
Councillors were shocked to learn at Thursday’s full meeting of Fenland District Council that only one per cent of the 151 referrals made in the past year by doctors for personal exercise regimes at the leisure centres in Wisbech, March and Whittlesey were made for people with mental health issues.
Obesity was third on the list of reasons for referral at 18 per cent. The number one health issue for referral - more than a third - according to a report presented at Thursday’s meeting was muscular-skeletal (bad backs and similar problems).
The referral system allows GPs to refer patients to the centres at drastically reduced fee. But Councillor Mike Cornwell, portfolio holder for health and well-being, admitted there appears to be a problem in getting GPs to make greater use of the system.
Speaking after the meeting he said: “I have to admit it is a bit of a mystery as to why GPs are not making greater use of the system especially for conditions like mental health where there has been clear evidence that exercise has real benefits for the patient.
“Michelle Tanfield, the portfolio holder for leisure, are going to have a real discussion on what we can do to drive up use of the system. It could even mean us sitting down and physically contacting the area’s doctors and asking them why they are not using the system and what we can do to encourage a greater take up.”
Of the 151 patients referred to the scheme 140 completed the exercise regime prescribed.
The council would like to see the number increase to at least 200 patient referrals for 2017/18 and the report says that will be achieved by greater communication with health professionals.
Coun Cornwell also pointed out there are a number of similar schemes in operation which could also impact on the council’s referral system.
“We really would like to see more use made of our system. The benefits for the health and well-being of our communities are numerous.”
The council would particularly like to see more patients with diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure), as well as mental health, being referred as they are the types of illnesses that can be especially helped through exercise.