Social Prescribing: why the time is now to commit to digital

As we celebrate Social Prescribing Day on Thursday March 10th, there seems no better time to reflect on how beneficial community groups and support can be for so many individuals. Today should be about celebrating the community and voluntary sector’s role in helping to improve the health and wellbeing of communities across the UK.

This has been particularly true over the last two years. With social isolation and increasing financial insecurity affecting people’s mental health more than ever during Covid, social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional support through social prescribing link workers – meaning that rather than being prescribed medication, a person’s mental health can be improved in a far more organic way through engaging with others, in their local communities.

The benefits are clear then from a health perspective. Yet where the current social prescribing model is lacking is in local councils’ struggles to build a true and tangible picture of how many people in their local community require this kind of support. Signposting has become a regular feature of council communities’ teams but is this data being captured in a meaningful way? Are Service Level Agreements properly capturing trends in health inequalities, growing issues in certain demographics and offering adequate and tailored support to those in financial trouble?

To ensure the answers to these questions is always ‘yes’ it requires councils and their partners to have an effective digital platform, with data and analytics that will allow the whole public sector to understand emerging health and wellbeing trends and patterns in their communities. This is where we at Elemental are already helping with over 800 social prescribing hubs in communities across the UK. The key focus now is to ensure councils are plugging in and up to speed.

As an award-winning social prescribing software company, at Elemental we pride ourselves on helping local authorities demonstrate real value and impact from their community investment activity.

With over 850 social prescribing hubs, we are officially the UK and Ireland’s leading social prescribing technology provider for the public sector. Crucially, our platform enables councils, the NHS, GP practices and universities and colleges to plug in and signpost residents, meaning it delivers across the whole public sector digital estate in communities. With over 1,000 GP practices and more than 200 Primary Care Networks in England and Wales now using Elemental digital platforms and over 150,000 people in the UK and Ireland accessing the digital platform to get the vital support they need for mental health, social isolation and financial insecurity, we are proving that social prescribing plus digital analytics is improving health and wellbeing in communities whilst also reducing demand on front line services.

Whilst the above goes some way to highlighting our own expertise within the social prescribing digital space, it’s our continuous investment in the ability of digital platforms to maximise the potential of social prescribing that is providing the greatest results for our clients – both in terms of helping to save costs and reducing pressure on public services, and, most importantly, in leading to far better health outcomes for patients. 

With Elemental Analytics, we can link data sets across sector-specific systems and display them in a bespoke dashboard to prove the business case for social prescribing.

The software is designed to provide our customers with comprehensive data on service uptake, service impact, and community support needs to inform how services and solutions are commissioned and delivered within their region.

Other benefits of the Analytics service include:

  • It allows for comparisons between different social prescribing areas, such as:
    • Effectiveness
    • Demand
    • Capacity
  • Promotes data-sharing among partnerships and organisations
  • It includes an array of interactive features, including data charts, filtering options which present real-time data analysis, and a financial impact calculator where users can calculate cost savings and expenses on their investments.

Next, Elemental Population Plus makes self-referral even easier for any individual, as they can simply request support via a bespoke website at any time and on any device.

To use Population Plus, we provide local councils with access to the platform and they can then direct local residents to the site – all of whom will then have access to the following options:

  • Be able to browse local self-prescribing services
  • Self-refer to local social prescribing hubs and be connected to a local link worker
  • Residents can create their own baselines such as ONS4, SWEMWB etc.
  • They can also connect with local community groups/activities, and keep a record of any relevant results via their own personal portal within the website.

 

The added benefit of this product is that it is all fully integrated with our main social prescribing platform Elemental Core. More and more people that use Elemental once, no longer need to access GP appointments or present at A&E or Town Halls, because they are taking more control over their own healthcare and life decisions. This is a game changer in reducing demand and allowing council officers and healthcare professionals to get on with the job of supporting their communities to build back better after the pandemic.

In essence, social prescribing without digital platforms and data analytics is just a directory. It simply can’t achieve the meaningful impact it deserves to. Councils should be investing now in the digital platforms – sometimes expanding on what is already happening in their areas – so that their investment saves them in the medium to long term.

That’s why, as we use today to celebrate the success social prescribing has already attained, whilst also naturally looking for ways to build upon these foundations for the future, we at Elemental strongly feel the UK Government should ringfence future funding to ensure that digital social prescribing platforms are operational in every council area by 1st December 2022 – a commitment that would save UK taxpayers millions of pounds in the long run and greatly reduce pressure on frontline services.

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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