2017 was an important year for social prescribing as awareness continued to grow over its role and impact in significantly improving health and wellbeing.
For the first time, funding was committed to social prescribing schemes through the Health and Wellbeing Fund, and research continues to show the real difference that non-clinical support can make to reducing pressures on the NHS and driving positive lifestyle choices for patients.
Latest figures showed that social prescribing schemes reduced GP consultation rates by 28% and A&E attendance by 24%.
More importantly, these schemes are delivering hugely positive outcomes, engaging patients with their own health choices and reducing medical prescriptions.
Social prescribing hit the headlines over Christmas for a number of initiatives that are showing just how powerful it can be in tackling health issues.
This ranged from NHS doctors in a number of areas prescribing food vouchers for fruit and vegetables to patients as part of a drive to tackle hunger and malnutrition issues suffered by people living in poverty, to the Head of the NHS urging every GP to consider prescribing lifestyle instead of automatically prescribing medication.
Age Scotland also launched its policy plan with the Mental Health Foundation, which placed a strong emphasis on social prescribing, highlighting the need to invest in community services and ensure they are better joined up to ensure everyone can access the help they need.
We read about evidence of great work done in communities over Christmas including community fridges, community choirs, befriending services and school canteens providing free meals over the holiday period, all making a real difference in tackling chronic health issues such as loneliness, isolation and poverty.
We founded Elemental Software following years of experience delivering community health initiatives and seeing first hand the real difference that activities such as these could bring to transforming communities, and so it’s great to see that this is now firmly on the health agenda.
Building on a successful 12 months, 2018 looks set to truly be a year focused on social prescribing. We’ve seen huge support for a stronger emphasis on social prescribing this year through our Social Prescribing Hour debates, with suggestions including more Men’s Sheds initiatives, more connections between stakeholders and more social prescribing in palliative care.
We’re really excited to be playing a part in supporting organisations from GP surgeries to CCGs and housing associations to enhance the role that social prescribing can play in supporting their health initiatives and to better monitor and measure the difference their work is making.
2018 is going to be the year that social prescribing well and truly takes off.
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