IGPP Virtual Event: Social Prescribing: Advancing Community-Centered Healthcare: Elemental’s Top 5 Takeaways

IGPP hosted the Social Prescribing: Advanced Community-Centred Healthcare virtual event on Wednesday 19th January 2022 to showcase and highlight the multiple facets of social prescribing and the different dimensions regarding the term.

Among those in the audience included senior government officials, NHS and executive agency representatives, local government, patient and community groups, regulators and consultants, along with those who are in academic or teaching positions.

The aim of this virtual event was to understand the key issues that many communities are currently facing nearly 2 years after the pandemic began and how social prescribing can help those communities and groups that need it most.

The conference featured a plethora of fascinating and engaging guest speakers. Among those included the likes of Sandra Mitchell-Phillips, Ways to Wellness, Arun Nadarasa, Social Prescribing Pharmacy Association, Professor James Kingsland OBE, National Association of Primary Care (UK) and Primary Care Home Programme, Chris Dayson, University of Sheffield, James Sanderson, NHS England and Improvement & National Academy of Social Prescribing, Steve Williams, OASIS Projects, Marie Polley, Social Prescribing Network, Concia Albert, One Westminster, and Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca, Global Social Prescribing Alliance & National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), who discussed the idea that health shouldn’t just start with hospitals but in our homes and communities as well.

If you missed the conference, here are our top takeaways: 

 

Social Prescribing Link Workers are vital for communities

Social Prescribing Link Workers are vital for communities to overcome health inequalities. They support individuals in understanding the issues that may be affecting their wellbeing. 

James Sanderson, Director of NHS Personalised Care and CEO, discussed the importance of Link Workers in communities and stated that due to the gross inequalities in some of the more deprived areas, individuals were dying or acquiring long term health issues up to 15 years earlier than individuals in less deprived areas. He then stated the lack of agency and empowerment that individuals in these communities are afforded is one of the main factors in this. 

Link Workers; therefore are crucial to these communities as they offer care and support while also finding ways for individuals to access activities in their communities. Currently there are around 2,000 link workers in the UK with the expectation being that a further 2,000 will be recruited by the year 2024.

 

Mental health is a priority

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many people have struggled to cope with the change in circumstances that has impacted us all. Losing loved ones, loss of work, isolation and the inability to visit friends and family has had a profound effect on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals. Now, more than ever, people are taking notice of mental health issues.

The NHS claims that by 2023/2024 there will be over 1,000 trained Social Prescribing Link Workers to support referrals to local communities. The question was posed to the audience as to what groups should be prioritised when accessing social prescribing with most people coming to agree on the fact that those suffering with mental health issues should be prioritised. It is believed that 1 in 6 people are currently suffering with mental health issues and a staggering 19.7% of over 16’s showing symptoms of anxiety or depression in the UK. It is relieving that we are recognising the significance of these issues now to help more people in the future.

 

The importance of preventative measures 

When you think about healthcare, you often think about those who have illnesses or conditions with doctors and nurses putting in great efforts to restore physical or mental wellbeing to an individual. Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca, Global Social Prescribing Alliance & National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), raised a point in this event that we have developed a “sickcare” model in healthcare and that he hopes that activities that are more psychosocial in nature such as social prescribing and personalised care can be as influential and as important as conventional healthcare practices. He also stated that we should not only focus on the third or people who are sick and in need of care but to include the two thirds of people to preserve and create further health.

 

Sustainability of Social Prescribing

Concia Albert, Head of Social Prescribing – One Westminster, discussed the sustainability of social prescribing and the support that is needed for the mechanism to run properly. She spoke about the roles and responsibilities of a Link Worker i.e. creating a link between the organisation and the patient, coaching the patient, follow-ups, advocacy and providing support to a patient as they navigate services and activities. However, she also raised the point that there should be investment in the support of social prescribing as an approach to be fully funded. Lastly, she talked about how there is a shift in social prescribing, but we must continue to seek opportunities to embed it in the medical pathway by valuing the social prescribing roles consistently throughout the NHS.

 

Looking to the future

Marie Polley, Co-Founder and Co-Chair – Social Prescribing Network, discussed what she believed would further develop and enhance social prescribing in the coming years. She discussed the idea of long term commissioning between a Link Worker and a patient and how building long, positive relationships can be beneficial for a patient. She then discussed how we need better data linkage between sectors and better ways to capture non-health outcomes. Finally, she discussed how important it is that we educate people on social prescribing and how it should be included in medical curricula for individuals to best understand what their role is. 

 

Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca, Global Social Prescribing Alliance & National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)

“My hope is that one day we will get activities that are psychosocial in nature, including social prescribing and personalised care, to be as exciting as stitching and suturing in people’s minds.

This increasing population, that by 2050, will double the amount of people living over the age of 60 is scary for a young doctor like me as there comes a point where we start collecting diseases over time that we don’t have enough workforce for, therefore interventions such as social prescribing that would allow us to keep people well and support them within the community are hugely important.”

 

If you would like to find out more about Elemental and how we can help enhance your social prescribing programme, please fill out the form below and we will be in touch.

 

 

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