New North Somerset project set to increase community referrals in cycling and walking

North Somerset Council, in partnership with Pier Health Primary Care Network, is one of 12 local authorities to win funding to develop ways to add more walking and cycling to the area’s social prescribing offer.

Social prescribing, also called community referral, sees health professionals refer patients to local link workers to access a range of non-clinical services to help improve health and wellbeing – such as attending a group activity – instead of providing a traditional prescription.

The £59,500 Department for Transport funding will support an initial three-month feasibility study led by expert active travel consultants. The study’s insights will inform a second bid application for a further three-year funded programme of activities.

Cllr Mike Solomon, North Somerset Council’s Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Services, said: “We’re one of only 12 authorities nationally to secure this funding. This shows confidence in our ability to deliver on our ambitious active and sustainable travel agendas, which all tie in with this project.

“We’ll now start to research a diverse range of walking and cycling projects to add to the community referral activities already on offer.”

Ideas that will be considered as part of the feasibility study include:

  • Supporting Bike4Health – a 12-week referral system
  • Operating a Bike Hub in Weston with bike hire, led rides and activities
  • Expanding group and led rides for mental health and wellbeing
  • Investing in bikes, e-bikes and adapted bikes
  • Installing secure bike parking at targeted GP surgeries
  • Offering ride leader training
  • Developing cycle buddy and cycle champion schemes

Cllr Mike Bell, North Somerset Council’s Deputy Leader and executive member responsible for public health, said: “In the Weston and Worle villages area we have a team of link workers experienced in the social prescribing of physical activity for health benefits. This new funding will increase the range of cycling and walking opportunities available for residents.

“The target beneficiaries of the schemes are adults registered at eight Pier Health GP surgeries, some of whom experience worse health outcomes than others. Eight areas in Weston are in the top 10 per cent most deprived in England with three being in the top three per cent. The schemes that follow this study will help to reduce this gap in health inequality.”

The key locations targeted for this social prescribing activity have also already been identified for further investment through Active Travel Fund 3 (ATF3) schemes.

The successful social prescribing bid was a collaboration between North Somerset Council’s sustainable travel team, transport planners and public health with support from Pier Health and the One Weston Locality group.

For more information about this project and the social prescribing of physical activity, contact [email protected].

For details on the initiatives, support and grants already available to support more walking and cycling, contact [email protected].

Press release by North Somerset Council.