The Rise of Social Prescribing in the UK
For those of you that might not have encountered the term before, we are sure that it is just a matter of time before the concept of social prescribing comes across your path. It is on the rise and the team at Help at Hand are very excited about it.
But what is social prescribing?
Social prescribing is a relatively new concept in the UK that is quickly gaining traction in GP practices across the country. The aim of Social prescribing is to help patients improve their health and wellbeing by connecting them with non-clinical services and activities in their local community.
Social prescribing is founded on the premise that health and wellbeing are influenced by a range of factors beyond just medical treatment. These can include social, economic, and environmental factors, such as housing, employment, and access to green spaces as examples. By addressing these wider determinants of health, Social prescribing aims to improve health outcomes and reduce demand on already overstretched clinical services.
So how does social prescribing work?
Social prescribing works by connecting patients with a Social prescribing Link Worker (SPLW), typically an individual working in a GP practice, who can help them identify and access relevant services and activities in their local community. These might include volunteering opportunities, social groups, exercise classes, or financial advice. The SPLW works with the patient to create a personalised action plan, based on their individual needs and preferences.
The Help at Hand app makes this aspect of Social prescribing a breeze, providing an easily accessible, carefully curated collection of available local groups, organisations and services.
Why is social prescribing becoming important?
There are several reasons why Social prescribing is becoming increasingly important in GP practices across the country:
Improved health outcomes: By addressing the wider determinants of health, Social prescribing has the potential to improve health outcomes for patients. Research has shown that Social prescribing can lead to improvements in mental health, wellbeing, and social connectedness, as well as reductions in demand on clinical services. This is clearly a win-win situation.
Patient-centred care: Social prescribing is a patient-centred approach that recognises that patients are experts in their own lives. By working with patients to identify their individual needs and preferences, Social prescribing empowers patients to take an active role in managing their own health and wellbeing. Patient-centred care will become increasingly more common within the NHS going forward.
Reducing demand on clinical services: With budgets stretched and many of the UK’s health services over capacity, Social prescribing has the potential to reduce demand on these stressed clinical services, such as GP practices and hospitals. This can help to free up resources for those patients who require more intensive medical treatment.
Collaboration between healthcare and community services: Social prescribing encourages collaboration between healthcare and community services, helping to break down the barriers between the two. This can lead to a more joined-up approach to healthcare, with patients benefitting from a wider range of services and support.
Social prescribing in action
To give you an idea of how Social prescribing works in real world scenarios, we have included below a few examples of Social prescribing initiatives across the UK:
The Green Gym is a social prescribing initiative run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) that helps people improve their physical and mental health by participating in outdoor conservation activities. Participants are referred by their GP or other healthcare professional and attend weekly sessions, where they undertake activities such as tree planting, path building, and wildlife surveys. The Green Gym has been shown to improve physical and mental health outcomes, as well as social connectedness.
Dance for Parkinson's is a social prescribing initiative run by English National Ballet that provides dance classes for people with Parkinson's disease. Participants are referred by their healthcare professional and attend weekly classes, where they learn ballet and contemporary dance techniques. Like Green Gym, the classes improve physical and mental health outcomes, as well as fostering social connectedness.
Food Coops are community-led social prescribing initiatives that aim to improve access to healthy, affordable food. Participants are referred by their healthcare professional and work together to set up and run a food cooperative, where they can purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at a reduced cost. Food Coops are designed to improve diet and nutrition and create social connections.
Art on Prescription provides art classes for people experiencing mental health difficulties. Once again, participants are referred by their healthcare professional and attend weekly classes, where they can explore a range of artistic techniques and mediums. The initiative has been shown to improve mental health outcomes, and importantly, has the social interaction box ticked too.
Above are just a small sample of the ever-growing list of Social prescribing initiatives that are popping up all across the country. And as Social prescribing continues to gain traction in GP practices and other healthcare providers, we can expect to see more innovative and effective initiatives emerging all the time.
If your practice or organisation is involved with Social prescribing and you are looking for a Social prescribing management tool, supported by a fully-curated app populated with local social prescribing initiatives for your patients, contact the Help at Hand team.