The London Assembly is calling for doctors to issue more social prescriptions – such as exercise and cookery classes to treat illness – rather than just traditional medication.

A new report by the Assembly’s health committee looks at how social prescribing can improve health and wellbeing and how it could be used more widely in the capital.

Social prescribing involves treating illness by prescribing non-traditional medication such as exercise, gardening and eating advice to improve the wellbeing of patients – improving their overall health and preventing them getting ill in the future.

Health committee chairman Onkar Sahota said: “Social prescribing will see the NHS help people get advice with finances or housing or take part in community groups and activities.

“In some cases, it is more effective than more traditional and clinical forms of prescribing, and in many cases, it is most effective to use both traditional and clinical prescriptions alongside social prescribing.

“Utilising both these approaches means that people are treated holistically; with all aspects of their life and their health taken into account.”

The report says more needs to be done to help Londoners understand exactly what social prescribing is and how activities such as exercise and cookery classes can be beneficial in improving health and wellbeing.

According to the report, the biggest barrier to social prescribing is lack of knowledge of services and where to refer patients to.

A total of 40 per cent of GPs say they would refer people to classes and other services if they had more information about what was available.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also written a ten-year plan that says around half a million Londoners who do not have access to the internet are less able to access social prescribing services.

Mr Sahota said it was a “step in the right direction” that Mr Khan recognises social prescribing as a form of health care in the capital but said he needed to do more to make sure people have greater access to it.

He added: “To keep Londoners healthy, we must have a multi-faceted approach. Social prescribing should be seen as another string in the bow of health services.”