Prescribe exercise to 'tackle country's health problems'
A Holyrood committee believes social prescribing will promote mental and physical well-being.
Doctors and nurses prescribing physical activity is key to tackling Scotland's health issues, MSPs have said.
A report by Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee argues healthcare professionals advising people to take part in sport or other activities can play a fundamental role in promoting mental and physical well-being.
Known as social prescribing, the committee concluded it helps prevent long-term conditions and reduces dependence on pharmaceutical prescriptions, as well as tackling loneliness and social isolation.
The report suggests medics should use social prescribing more often as a preventative measure to stop people from becoming ill, rather than just as a reactive response to health issues.
Calling for 5% of health and social care integration budgets to be spent on social prescribing, the MSPs argue it would ease the current pressure on services, as well as reducing waiting times and delayed discharges.
Lewis Macdonald, convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said: "The value of social prescribing is indisputable, helping to improve health and well-being while reducing pressure on our health and social care services.
"We want to see social prescriptions treated as equal to medical prescriptions.
"However, social prescribing should not be seen as a cost-free alternative to medical prescriptions.
"It is in fact an investment in the health and well-being of our country's citizens and should be used not just as a reactive health measure but as a preventative measure from our earliest years."
He added: "Access to services and suitable physical activities is key and the committee want to see a funding commitment from the Government which helps fund the infrastructure to provide these services.
"The cabinet secretary for health and sport seems convinced of the need for such initiatives so we want to know why this is not being delivered at scale across all NHS boards and integration authorities.
"We also want to see the growing inequality gap between active and non-active populations, with its consequential health and well-being impacts, addressed urgently.
"The majority of any government investment in social prescribing should be spent in the most deprived areas to help tackle this inequality."