My take on the King’s fund 2018 Social Prescribing: Coming of Age conference
I am absolutely delighted to be writing this blog! I set myself a target three months ago to be at The King’s Fund Social Prescribing: Coming of Age conference on the 6th November 2018, and I got there!
Boy did it deliver! The energy and enthusiasm in the room was captivating.
Firstly, thank you so much to Elemental who sponsored me to be there. From the first contact I have had with Elemental it has been nothing but a pleasure.
They describe themselves as a ‘Tech for Good’ company with a difference; but they aren’t techys! In fact the co-founders Jennifer and Leeann both have a background as community development workers and this is really apparent in their ethos and everything they do.
A passion for positively impacting people's lives
They are one of us. They understand. Their goal is to make it easier to refer, connect, support, track, measure and report on a social prescription, and their digital platform is tailor made to suit the project its supporting and existing software.
Now you might be cynical, of course I will sing their praises, they enabled me to be at the conference, but, what has struck me, is how down to earth and approachable they are as a team. I am just starting out in my #socialprescribingschemedream and haven’t yet defined it.
They are quite literally taking the digital health world by storm! But, they have been remarkably generous with their time; they’ve talked me through demos, answered my questions, welcomed me to their webinars and introduced me to experts and stakeholders.
I know they will do this for anyone because their passion lies with social prescribing positively impacting on people’s lives. So, however much a technophobe you are or however early you are in implementing your social prescription, talk to them and see how they might help to enhance it.
After all, why create a social prescribing scheme in 2018 without digital at the heart of it?
Technology itself won’t transform
This struck me as I listened to those who decided that digital would be an enabler to help them grow, better connect and sustain their social prescribing programmes – I heard from a GP, a commissioner, a programme manager and from one of the Elemental co founders about how digital is the catalyst in making it easier to co create social prescribing programmes that benefit everyone involved’.
So, to the conference...
How do you write up such an inspiring day with so many influential and expert speakers? I wrote 26 pages of notes and felt like I hung off of every word said! I know I cannot do justice to the passion and excitement in the room but I will write a little on the speakers that particularly stood out for me and explain what sense I have made of what I learnt, and what it means for me.
James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care NHS England started by stating that social prescribing is a ‘wicked concept’ which is very difficult to define because it opens up more dilemmas than it solves. He asked the audience where is the evidence for disjointed impersonal care and encouraged us to work together and get on with it.
This meant a lot to me, because for a while now I have been battling with what ‘it’ is, so to have such a senior figure also reduced to using the word ‘it’ was reassuring!
Tom Coffey, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, discussed the Mayor of London’s social prescribing strategy and plans for implementation. He highlighted how outcomes in healthcare are not just about services and explained Sadiq’s commitment to reducing London’s stark health inequalities by 2028.
I enjoyed Dr. Michael Dixon and Dr. Marie Polley’s reflections on progress in social prescribing because they eloquently highlighted that the question is now about how we deliver social prescribing, not whether we do. It was great to be surrounded by those who are no longer questioning the research on whether to do it.
Why we need to collaborate
Throughout the day various models were brought to the table; The Comprehensive Model for Personalised Care; A model for social prescribing and A Common Outcomes Framework for social prescribing. It seems clear to me we are being asked to utilise these best practice models and apply local translation; to tailor and adapt, not to be nationally dictated. We are also being asked to co-produce; outside boxes, outside silos, not about competition.
How can we incentivise people to work together, to step out of our roles and work for the benefit of all? Whilst I have no answers to this, I do feel a sense of determination, (and also irony!) I am currently outside of boxes, outside of silos and not in competition as I am currently going about my #socialprescribingschemedream without a professional body behind me. It could be argued as a result of this, I am not in demand either, hence the irony… I want in! But, I will consider very carefully what avenue I proceed down to ensure coproduction and ‘the benefit of all’ is at the core.
A personal highlight for me was hearing from Bogdan Chiva Giurca. If ever there was an argument for not seeking permission and just going ahead and doing something, Bodgan found it! Bodgan is a medical student marvel that has engaged the future workforce in Social Prescribing by informally pushing a national consensus for teaching social prescribing, when he realised it was not being taught in medical school. Maybe ‘just’ a medical student, but what a charismatic and go getting individual. A key theme of the day was ‘future proofing’ social prescribing and with Bodgan around, I feel more confident.
Whilst there is no doubt all the experts in the fields were inspiring, I couldn’t possibly not discuss Arabella Trissalin who gave an amazing personal, patient story and an incredibly powerful reminder for why we need social prescribing. She highlighted how a social prescription enabled her to recover from mental health crisis in a sustainable way;
“When all the talking therapies ended, the social prescription services continued to support”. Arabella Trissalin
So what does this all mean for me?
At the beginning of 2018 I knew I wanted to do something in Community Health, and that I wanted to get out of the silo of my organisation, but I didn’t know what it was and I certainly had no idea of social prescribing. 8 months on and I know that something is social prescribing.
Attending the The Kings Fund Social Prescribing: Coming of Age conference reminded me of this video.
I feel confident and invigorated that there is definitely a movement building. I don’t any longer feel that I am an alone nut and I am genuinely excited to be one of many early followers.
Matt Hancock stated to ‘improve the health of the nation’ is the job of the NHS. I would argue the job of the nation is to improve our own health and therefore save the NHS and social prescribing may just enable us to do this.
The Health Secretary also outlined the three key ways social prescribing can be a tool for doctors to use to help them and to help patients – through libraries, music and a new National Academy for Arts on Prescription.
In his speech, Matt Hancock said:
“Music can help people with dementia. How it can reduce the need for medication. How it can reduce agitation and combative behaviour. How it can reduce the need for restraints and help dementia patients and their families cope better with symptoms. Personal playlists could offer a simple solution to this growing problem.”
“We will create a National Academy for Social Prescribing to be the champion of, build the research base, and explain the benefits of social prescribing across the board from the arts to physical exercise to nutritional advice and community classes.”
“An organisation where GPs and other frontline health workers can receive training and support. Where they can learn what works, and what’s available in their communities. Because social prescription reduces over subscription of drugs. It can lead to the same or better outcomes for patients without popping pills. And it saves the NHS money. Because many of these social cures are free.”
Now, I need to strike while the iron is hot and not be left behind… Thank you again to Elemental, and watch this space! #socialprescribingschemedreamwithAmyFieldhouse
‘Tickets to the Kingsfund Social Prescribing conference sold out really fast. Amy contacted us to see if she could have one of ours and it was evident on that first call that Amy was so passionate about social prescribing. It was a very easy decision to make. Amy made so many connections at the event and for us that is what the whole thing was all about. Thanks Amy and welcome to the team!’
Jennifer Neff, Co-founder, Elemental Software