§ Mr. Heald
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what funding is allocated for general practitioner exercise referrals in the financial year 2002–03; 
(2) what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the GP exercise referral schemes; 
(3) what he is doing to promote GP exercise referral schemes; 
(4) what research he has commissioned into general practitioner exercise referrals; 
(5) how many general practitioner exercise referral schemes exist; 
(6) how many patients have been the subject of GP exercise referrals. 
§ Ms Blears
[holding answer 21 May 2002]: The national quality assurance framework on exercise referral systems, published last year, aims to improve the quality of existing referral schemes and help the development of new ones. The guidelines were also promoted at two regional seminars for primary care and leisure services. The Department does not keep a national register of practices which offer these schemes, or the number of participants. These details are held locally by primary care trusts (PCTs) or local authorities.
The Department does not organise and centrally fund such schemes. It is up to PCTs, in conjunction with local authorities, to determine whether an exercise referral scheme fits with their broader plans for promoting physical activity.
The Department has funded two reviews by the former health education authority that documented progress and effectiveness of exercise referral schemes. The research showed that better designed referral schemes can lead to small levels of increased participation in activity, but that practice across the country was highly variable. There is on-going research of £1.1 million via the health technology assessment programme, including two projects looking at exercise referral schemes.