Gym sessions and cultural activities should be prescribed on the NHS to help people struggling with physical or mental ill-health, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.
Leader Willie Rennie has called for pilot “social prescribing” schemes that have been trialled in Dundee and other parts of the country to be rolled out across Scotland.
The move would allow doctors to refer patients to a wider range of services, from insulation for those suffering ill-health due to fuel poverty to free activities for the obese.
Mr Rennie used a visit to a climbing wall at the National Scout Activity Centre in Fife to highlight the policy, which he said would give doctors and nurses more freedom to use a range of treatments and therapies.
He said: “Helping people get active can make a huge difference to their physical and mental well-being. It is right that we give doctors the tools they need to help keep Scots healthy.
“Social prescribing not only allows doctors to prescribe things like gym memberships and other activities that get people moving. It can also see be used to prescribe heat insulation in the homes of people whose health is at risk as a result of fuel poverty or cultural community activities for people struggling with loneliness or mental ill-health.
“This is a new approach to care that reflects the fact that people become unwell for many different reasons.
“Social prescribing will obviously not replace medication or other treatments, but it helps ensure that patients are getting the sort of care that works best for them.”