How Social Prescribing is helping to deliver key Public Health objectives
There have been major developments in the delivery of public health objectives in recent years, with local authorities demonstrating that they are best placed to lead on improving the public’s health and the NHS focusing on more preventative measures to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation.
Good physical and mental health and well-being are about much more than clinical healthcare. Individuals need personalised bundles of support, including access to suitable housing, education, employability, social assets and strong, supportive relationships.
For many people who access the NHS, the answer lies not in medical treatment, but in community support or activities in their local neighbourhood. Recent research suggests that over a fifth of GP appointments are for social needs rather than medical issues, and more and more GPs are recognising that social prescribing presents a unique opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change and tackle the underlying causes, issues or circumstances that impact a person’s health.
The Role of Social Prescribing in Public Health
Recognising the role of social prescribing in public health, the NHS Long Term Plan promises to deliver social prescribing to 2.5 million more people in the next five years and train 1,000 trained social prescribing link workers by the end of 2020/21. By 2023-24, social prescribers will be handling around 900,000 patient appointments a year.
James Sanderson, NHS England’s Director of Personalised Care, said “Social prescribing is an important component of the NHS comprehensive model of Personalised Care and there is emerging evidence that it can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing. The aim is that social prescribing schemes lead to a substantial reduction in the use of NHS services, including GP attendances.”
By connecting people to community-based programmes and services, such as gardening groups, art classes, exercise programmes and nature walks, social prescribing is a welcome shift towards prevention and allows for patient choice, shared decision making and self-management.
Cutting Costs in Health Care
Social Prescribing also offers a cost-effective way of reducing demand on NHS health and social care services in the short, medium, and long-term by empowering people to manage their own health and wellbeing and engage individuals in non-clinical programmes and services which will help them to cope with long term conditions, improve their mental health, increase their involvement in the community or assist with wider social issues e.g. debt, housing problems, employability issues, relationship problems.
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.
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.
A Whole System Approach to Personalised Care
Helping to deliver the personalised care aspect of NHS Long Term Plan, social prescribing will become an indispensable tool for GPs, helping to combat some of the issues of modern life, from loneliness to mental health, or over-medicalisation.
Working with a Link Worker, social prescribing provides people with choice and control in the way in which they receive support, creating a personalised social prescription based on ‘what matters’ to them and their individual strengths and needs.
Personalised care takes a whole-system approach, integrating services around the person including health, social care, public health and wider services. It also recognises the contribution of communities and the voluntary and community sector to support people and build resilience. That’s why at Elemental, we work closely with our customers to encourage partnership and collaboration across sectors in order to achieve to best outcomes for the community.
Joining Up The Dots
Although the gains from a whole system approach are easy to imagine, it can often be challenging for us to know where to start.
We know that collaboration takes time; strong relationships, a shared vision and effective leadership are all crucial. To find out more about how Elemental can help you join up the dots for effective partnership working, read some of our recent case studies, drop us a line or give us a call.