Social prescribing to get Scotland active

We hosted our annual Expert Lecture on Wednesday 31 October in Edinburgh with 200 guests interested in getting Scotland more active.

This year, we welcomed award winning expert Dr William Bird MBE to Scotland to discuss a community approach to improving the health of the population.

Dr Bird has helped transform the health of millions of people across the UK through innovative solutions he has developed. From setting up the UK's first Health Walk scheme to receiving an MBE for services to health and physical activity, Dr Bird, a passionate GP and CEO of Intelligent Health, gripped our audience with the science behind physical inactivity and what we should do about it.

Dr Bird’s lecture focused on the importance of people, place and purpose. Research suggests that to achieve optimum health and happiness, people need to be part of a sociable group, be surrounded by a good environment with access to nature, and have a purpose.

Dr Bird explained many people had lost connections to the place they live and the people around them. The effects of loneliness, he said, could be as damaging to health as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, while tiredness and inactivity caused by a sedentary lifestyle could lead to addiction or depression.

Social prescribing is focusing on people, place and purpose and moving away from the assumption that prescription of medicine is always the answer to fixing such problems.

“Social prescribing is a shift from a GP asking “What is the matter with you?” to “What matters to you?” People will only look after their health once they are happy.

“Social prescribing makes it more formal for a GP to recommend a walking group or activity because it puts the person at the centre.”

Dr Bird explained that the success of social prescribing is dependent on partnership with the voluntary sector – requiring time, respect, detail and funding.

Dr Bird was joined by NHS Tayside’s Andrew Radley, Consultant in Public Health Pharmacy, who shared his vision for rolling out social prescribing in Tayside.

Andrew described social prescribing as referring patients to non-clinical services in their communities to encourage social inclusion and self-care.

The lecture emphasised the need for community based and person focused activities to be available and accessible across Scotland. From Health Walks to gardening clubs to dance classes, the third sector can support our NHS to achieve a happier, healthier Scotland.


Watch the Expert Lecture video in full and download the presentations from the day here.

William Bird presentation

Andrew Radley presentation