While acknowledging that exercise is ‘good for you all year round’ and can help you keep warm, the advice states that people should speak to their family doctor before doing so.
By: Kimberly Rodrigues
NHS England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and the Met Office’s joint cold weather plan for England which was updated this week have advised Britons to ‘speak to your GP before starting any exercise this winter’.
A section in the plan entitled ‘main public health messages’ states that individuals should ‘look after [themselves] by… if possible, trying to move around at least once an hour, but remember to speak to your GP before starting any exercise plans’ the Pulse reports.
The cold weather plan which guides Britons on how to keep healthy during the colder months has oddly asked the public to speak to their family doctor before exercising.
GP groups have reportedly condemned this advice stating it would only add to the already-stretched workload of family doctors as people would now try to call them for permission to exercise.
Dr John Hughes, head of GP Survival, a campaign group reportedly told Pulse, ‘It’s absolutely typical of the idiocy that comes out of NHS England from people who don’t understand what GPs actually do.
‘Given the fact that people are likely to be trying to keep warm by exercising, there may well be a substantial increase in numbers presenting with this if people actually see this.
‘It’s absolutely ridiculous,’ he said.
He also warns that patients may ‘get upset’ when GPs suggest that they are ‘neither trained nor indemnified to do it’ and that if they do provide advice ‘they will have to pay for the letter.’
Dr Hughes is also reported to have said, ‘The contract is to see patients who are ill or believe themselves to be ill. Pronouncing fitness for exercise is not any part of the GMS contract.
‘If NHS England wishes GPs to fulfill that role on top of all the other roles they are doing and despite the pressures on GP appointments, then they would need to be negotiating an additional payment for this.’
This recommendation comes at a time when Britons have been facing continuous struggles to get in touch with their GP. Additionally, thousands have been daily trying to join the telephone queues for an appointment.
Criticizing the ‘absurd’ recommendation, Dennis Reed of Silver Voices, another campaign group for senior residents who have repeatedly voiced concerns over the shortage of GP access in the country is reported to have said, ‘We want to reserve appointments for people who have a real need for them.
‘To suggest that they talk to their GP before going for a brisk walk is absolute nonsense.’
Also speaking about the bizarre recommendation, professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs is reported to have told the Daily Mail, ‘With limited workforce and resources GPs simply don’t have the capacity to sign off every patient’s individual exercise plan, particularly when patients are participating in low-intensity exercise, as we need to prioritize those patients with increasingly complex health needs who need our expertise.
‘If patients have underlying health conditions and are considering taking up more high-intensity exercise routines, we advise them to raise this at their next routine appointment with their appropriate health care professional,’ he said.
In the Government’s defense, the advice of contacting a GP before exercising was apparently included in the guidance for the last decade but only gained attention after the guidance was updated this week.
For this reason, a Government source told the Daily Mail that the guidance was actually targeting vulnerable Britons like those with a long-term respiratory condition by encouraging them to get a flu jab and was not intended for the general public.
Yet, the recommendation featured in a section entitled ‘Main public health messages.’
Another GP who is not at all in favor of the recommendation is Dr Richard Van Mellaerts, BMA England GP committee chair. He is reported to have said, ‘This is unhelpful advice that takes no account of the impact on practice workload or the knock-on effect on appointments for patients who are unwell and need seeing if there is an influx of people contacting their practice for advice on their suitability for exercise.
‘This is especially important over winter when we anticipate demand for all services to be particularly high.
‘This is not work that NHS practices are contracted, resourced, or insured to do, and would take GPs away from seeing ill people who need their care most immediately. More broadly, it would be good if organizations spoke to GPs and GP representatives before making public pronouncements like this,’ he asserts.