Social prescribing evidence has been a hot topic lately as the awareness of community based care increases and alternatives to medicine are publicised as the basis of new health strategies from Theresa May and Matt Hancock.
Critics want to know where the proof is, where the evidence is stored that backs these strategies that hinge on alternatives to medicine and prevention heavy interventions. And these are all valid questions.
Although social prescribing isn’t a new concept, research regarding evidence and results is limited, mainly because those that have been actively practising social prescribing, have been using unconnected and paper based methods without any digital system integration and therefore have no audit trail, baseline reports or comparison, progress statistics or uptake figures that form a complete 360 view of the patient journey or the project as a whole. Without digital system synergy, quantitative evidence will be hard to measure, track and report on.
WHAT IS SOCIAL PRESCRIBING?
Social prescribing is a way of connecting patients in primary care with sources of support within the community to help improve their health and well-being, such as gardening groups, cookery classes and exercise programmes.
Social prescribing has been widely advocated as a means of empowering individuals to manage their own health and wellbeing. In fact, a survey by GPonline earlier this year found that nearly a quarter of GPs are now regularly using social prescribing to refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to non-clinical services, up from one in five GPs in comparison to last year.
SOCIAL PRESCRIBING EVIDENCE
With organisations within the health, housing, local government and the VCSE sector recognising and reaping the benefits of non-clinical care in communities, studies by the Local Government Association have shown that the health service can save £6 for every £1 spent on schemes that maintain people’s social lives, such as dance classes, communal lunches and community choirs. Nesta’s People Powered Health programme also suggests the cost of managing patients with long-term conditions could be reduced by up to 20%.
Not only are the cost savings clear, but it is also apparent that social prescribing can demonstrate return on investment and social value. Evidence by Well Springs Health Living programme found that for every £1 invested, £2.90 of social value was created and The Rotherham social prescribing pilot estimates a return of investment of £3.38 for every £1 invested.
Studies also show that social prescribing can have a range of positive outcomes for individuals including enhanced self-esteem, improved mood, opportunities for social contact, increased self-efficacy, and greater confidence.
REPORTING ON RESULTS
Despite being in the early stages of implementation, our customers are now beginning to see the results of the social prescribing programmes and services.
Since announcing their social prescribing partnership with us back in June, GPs within 35 surgeries across Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care Foundation Trust can now make instant referrals to social prescribing services and programmes, reducing GP appointments while also helping patients make positive lifestyle changes.
Following the referral, GPs can also track the status of referrals at different stages, enriching the conversations they have with people when they come into surgery and allowing a seamless pathway to and from social prescribing via clinical services.
Recognising that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, Maassarani Group practice is also referring individuals into non-clinical sources of support to enhance their health and wellbeing. Using The Elemental Social Prescription Connector, GPs have the ability to track cohorts and monitor the progress of social prescribing referrals, enabling them to provide enhanced support to those that need it most.
Our customers within the housing sector are also making progress, Radian housing association kicked off their social prescribing pilot, with the aim of transforming the health and well-being of their residents. Over four months on Radian regularly receive instant social prescription referrals from GP practices, community nurses and primary care professionals, with plans for their housing officers to make referrals in the future.
THE POWER OF PERSONAL USER STORIES
Although social prescribing evidence is out there, with the facts and figures to prove it, it’s important to recognise that social prescribing is centred on a people-first approach.
It’s vital that we harness the power of personal user stories within the evaluations of social prescribing activity. These user stories demonstrate the impact that community-based care can make on people’s lives.
For example, in Skelmersdale, the West Lancashire CCG social prescribing team have been supporting a 87 year old lady who was living alone. Previously, the lady rang the ambulance services on average 50 times a month, and called or presented herself to her GP every day.
With the support of a Link Worker and Community Specialist Paramedic, the social prescribing team were able to connect the individual to community based events and clubs which has improved her social life and created a sense of belonging. As a result, the team have reduced the amount of times she calls and attends her GP practice and A&E, and ultimately, improve her quality of life.
We’ve more incredible stories like this to tell, and 6 months down the line we’ll have some pretty impressive reports from our customers that will certainly answer back the critics with their calls for evidence.
DEMONSTRATING THE IMPACT WITH DIGITAL
We are now experiencing a shift toward digital social prescribing, with organisations moving beyond a paper-based approach. Without benchmarks and baselines, it’s impossible to know the difference your community programmes and services are making to the health and wellbeing of communities.
For many health and social care services, housing associations, commissioners, funders and VCSE organisations, it’s vital to be able to demonstrate the impact and value that social prescribing services provide. Using the reporting feature within Elemental Core, our customers can access, report and showcase detailed data analytics at any time, helping them to
- Shape their social prescribing services
- Allocate adequate resources efficiently
- Secure future funding
- Close the loop between clinicians and the community
- Demonstrate the evidence of their social prescribing efforts