Delivering on the NHS Long Term Plan by making social prescribing more accessible
We’ve been looking forward to reading the NHS Long Term Plan because we were sure social prescribing would feature in it, and as long-time ambassadors and champions of social prescribing, we were keen to see if we were right. No we’re not psychic and no, we didn’t have any inside information, but we knew it would feature both directly and indirectly, why?
Because, in all the years we’ve worked with health, housing and voluntary organisations within communities, we’ve never felt such a positive shift, such a growing recognition, and a widespread thirst for more information about social prescribing. 2018 literally had us travelling all around the UK and Europe week in, week out spreading the word on social prescribing.
We’ve also witnessed first hand, some pretty incredible projects and programmes set up by our own customers who’ve implemented social prescribing via our Core platform, and now, we’re starting to see some impressive results.
Embracing the concept
Social prescribing has come a long way, and we’ve been part of the journey throughout our careers in community development and more recently as co founders of Elemental Software. Helping to deliver better social prescribing programmes was one of the reasons we gave up our full time jobs!
So, you could say we’re heavily invested and you’ll understand why we’re so delighted to see that there is a clear goal of making social prescribing available to up to 900,000 people in the next 5 years.
Social Prescribing Champions
We have been reflecting on our own journey leading up to the release of the plan and how we made the move from the front line of community development to helping others connect people, build communities and improve lives.
Leeann and I have been speaking with hundreds of people in towns, villages and cities across the UK and Ireland and the quest remains the same – for relevant organisations and sectors to work closely together so that people are empowered to live healthier and happier lives and become more in control of their own wellbeing.
What are the key takeaways for us and social prescribing from the NHS Long Term Plan?
The plan clearly identifies that personalised care is a priority for the NHS. Patient choice, shared decision making, prevention and self management are all featured as significant goals that underpin the emphasis on personalised care, as does social prescribing.
Social prescribing has its own section which features the aim to recruit and train 1000 link workers this year and more incrementally over the next 5 years. We know how vital link workers are to social prescribing but also that not everyone needs a link worker to avail of a social prescription. Where we have seen social prescribing work best is where there are trained, resourced and connected link workers driving the programmes in their local communities.
The most promising goal for us is that the NHS want at least 900,000 people supported by social prescribing by the year 2023. I’ll admit, Leeann and I both jumped out of our seats with joy when we read this – it is one of the main reasons we get out of bed in the morning. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true.
We’re excited to see that there’s a significant emphasis on prevention and health inequalities, with an aim to redesign healthcare so that people get the right care at the right time in the optimal care setting.
As part of wider move to what The King’s Fund has called ‘shared responsibility for health’, over the next 5 years the NHS will ramp up support for people to manage their own health.This will start with diabetes prevention and management, asthma and respiratory conditions, maternity and parenting support, and online therapies for common mental health problems.
Partnerships with other sectors must exist in order for the NHS Long Term plan to succeed, we see this as a necessity for the success of many of our customers’ social prescribing programmes e.g. health must connect with housing and VCSE, otherwise you’re reducing resources and most importantly, you’re reducing patient choice.
What our partners around the UK are saying
We wanted to reach out to a few of our partners in order to get their opinion and a range of perspectives on the NHS Long Term Plan from GPs, to Link Workers, Community Health Workers right down to patients. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
“It is hugely encouraging how prominent social prescribing is in the Long Term Plan. It’s important that any model ensures social prescribing can be embedded across the entirety of the system, takes account of existing schemes that have made huge progress already and promotes the proper resourcing of the voluntary and community sector, without which social prescribing will fail.”
Chris Easton, Head of Person and Community Centred Approaches Tameside and Glossop ICFT.
“It’s great to see a positive move towards the growth of social prescribing . Embedding in community has numerous benefits to build and strengthen resilience, #dontmedicalisesocialise.”
Dr Mohan Sekeram, GP and GP Trainer at Wide Way Medical
“From working with our local Social Prescribing team, I have seen the efficiency and ease of using Elemental for referrals. It has drawn us together as health and social care professionals to provide safer care, closer to home, without duplication and delay.”
Kieran Potts, Community Specialist Paramedic, North West Ambulance Service
“I think the commitment to increase the number of link workers is fantastic! Having worked as a link worker I can relate to the comment made by Christiana Melam about ending link worker isolation! It is a lonely role at times but very well received by health professionals. I have been on the other end too as a mother to two young children. I know I would have benefitted from being signposted to some of the services available as I have discovered so many excellent provisions in the community I had no idea about. It’s evident that health professionals are stretched and don’t have the time to research what’s available for patients.”
Sonia Mackenzie, Former Link Worker, Babybox
“Social prescribing was a life saver for me. If I had not have found the art class I have no doubts that I would not be alive today. I was put on a 19 month waiting list for services, the art class was instant. My life is so different now, I finally feel I have a life, an existence and a future.
Debs Taylor, Former patient, Creative Minds Calderdale Project Development Worker
Already leading the way
Babybox use Elemental Software to refer expectant mothers to community services like pre-natal classes, relaxation and breathing classes and new mothers to classes that are proven to prevent post-natal depression like make-up classes and flower arranging.
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust CCG developed a new model of community health care that empowers the individual to look for solutions to social problems before a crisis occurs through their Life Rooms. The Life Rooms offers practical community resources for groups and individuals, in addition to wellbeing support and opportunities around social factors such as housing, employment and money matters, which can impact health and wellbeing.
Putting emphasis on prevention
Ealing Council run their social prescribing programme in partnership with local partners such as housing associations, and residents in one of the most disadvantaged communities in Ealing to co-produce solutions to empower inactive people to become more active.
Using the Elemental digital platform ForHousing make direct referrals tailored to the needs of individual residents to services and support in their area and have the ability to monitor and track the impact of the social prescription. ForHousing work in partnership with Westminster GP Practice to enable GPs to refer patients through to social prescribing activities and significantly increase the numbers of residents accessing and engaging with programmes delivered by ForHousing and its partners.
These are just a few examples of organisations around the UK who are already delivering on the plan, months before it was revealed. We could talk for days about the great things our customers are doing with social prescribing and digital, but instead, here’s a quantitative round-up from last year:
Why we champion the benefits of pairing digital with social prescribing
According to the NHS Long Term Plan, digitally-enabled primary and outpatient care will go mainstream across the NHS – meaning digital technology will provide convenient ways for patients to access advice and care. For patients and staff the starting point is interoperability of data and systems.
We absolutely love this part of the plan, but why? Well for 14 years, Leeann and I worked in the community and became increasingly frustrated to find more and more people in the dark about what alternative options where freely available to them in their communities.
We knew that despite everyone’s best efforts, health inequalities still existed and those that needed the most support in our communities were being left behind.
The solution was to better connect up the sectors, the organisations within the sectors and the people delivering the programmes and services so that people could easily source and avail of services across a number of sectors. Digital had a massive role to play as we knew interoperability and seamless integration with partner systems was a necessity. We wanted to create a central platform that connected all patient systems and data in one place.
When we initially planned the development of our Core social prescribing platform we knew it had to do a number of things including:
- – Accommodate multiple stakeholders and users involved in social prescribing
- – Incorporate a live and interactive database of services
- – Capture baseline measurement and ongoing health and wellbeing results
- – Be accessible by all who need it in any sector
- – Be something that communities could access
Two and a half years on we have made the jump from launching our Core platform at NHS Expo to developing a suite of social prescribing products and services and becoming the social prescribing platform of choice throughout the UK, Ireland and soon to be in Finland.
How we're helping to give patients control of their own health through digital
The NHS Long Term Plan puts an emphasis on allowing patients to self manage their primary care. We developed Self Refer for this very purpose, so that people could become more in control of their own health.
Focusing on creating a culture of self care and independence, Elemental Self Refer will empower your communities and drive real-time, person centred care. Everyone can avail of social prescribing, but not everyone needs the support of a Link Worker or a referral from a GP. Individuals can explore which quality assured interventions are available in their community and filter by activity, provider, location etc. Empower your community to create their own health and wellness baseline, their own social prescription plan based on their baseline results, and make direct connections to their preferred community based providers or interventions.
Any individual can choose the self refer option, resulting in an instant connection to their nearest social prescribing project and/or social prescribing link worker.
We’re dedicated to developing and enhancing our platform’s API capabilities so that we can ensure interoperability and seamless integration with not only primary and secondary systems, but all patient and customer systems across social care, housing, VCSE and private sectors.
We currently connect with clinical systems providers like EMIS Health and we’re about to launch three new partnerships that see Elemental providing that vital link to track the uptake and impact of engaging in community provided programmes and services.
Helping our health, housing, community and local government partners deliver better social prescribing programmes
We welcome the plan and have aligned our own strategy to help deliver on the key goals by helping more people to access social prescribing and training link workers to be digital social prescribers and reducing health inequalities. Get in touch if you want to find out how we can help you to deliver on the NHS Long Term Plan or request a demo here.
If you want to give your feedback, thoughts, or reflections on the plan, then join us for an extra special Social Prescribing Hour this Wednesday 9th Jan between 8-9pm where Martin Bell ,Independent Consultant, The Martin Bell Partnership,will host an interactive session between stakeholders in health and wellbeing from across the world.