Social prescribing: a new way forward for local councils
Back in April 2013, local authorities were set a renewed responsibility for public health as part of the health and social care reforms.
In order to be more influential in improving community health and helping to deliver the ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ called for in the NHS five year forward view, many local councils have identified social prescribing as a key priority in terms of encouraging personalised and self-care.
Promoting Person Centred Care and Addressing the Wider Determinants
Given the scale of need and the challenges facing different local communities, social prescribing has offered a new way forward for local councils, taking a holistic approach to person-centred care and addressing the wider determinants of health such as people’s local environment, housing, transport and employment.
Many councils recognise health is inextricably linked to the way people live their lives and the opportunities available in the local communities where they live.
Non-medical interventions, including cookery classes, exercise programmes, befriending services and employment advice are increasingly being proposed to address wider determinants of health and to help patients improve health behaviours and better manage their own conditions.
A Fresh Apporach to Longstanding Problems
With the prevalence of more people living with long term conditions and health inequalities persisting, social prescribing offers a fresh approach for local councils to longstanding problems, empowering patients to maximise self-management and choice, through shared decision making and person-centred care.
The social prescribing model of care, helps to contribute to building healthier, more resilient communities by:
- Involving people in decisions about their care and identifying programmes and services suited to their needs
- Enables access to information to help them make those decisions
- Offers support to understand their condition and confidence to self care
- Helps to offer joined up, seamless services by taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing
- Allows people to take a proactive approach and initiate an early intervention, preventing conditions from escalating further
- Treats the individual as a whole person, tackling the root cause of the issue rather than treating specific symptoms
The Role of Councils in Social Prescribing
District and local councils have important roles when it comes to social prescribing. Firstly, with their responsibility to keeping communities healthy and secondly, their strategic role in engaging health and primary care professionals to make referrals to community-based programmes and services.
Socio-economic inequalities cost the NHS in England £4.8 billion a year, almost a fifth of the total NHS hospital budget, according to researchers at the University of York.
Reducing health inequalities remains a key focus for many councils, with a wide range of factors, such as poverty, social exclusion, employment, income, education, housing conditions and transport access to health care, all making a significant impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing.
Infographic: The benefits of social prescribing for councils
This infographic details how social prescribing can help district councils to deliver on their health prevention plans, create thriving communities and ensure happier, healthier citizens.
1. Seeks to address the social determinants of ill health and empowers individuals to manage their own health and wellbeing and have control over their lives
2. Reduces the demand on more costly services, strengthening the role and impact of ill health prevention
3. Creates and develops healthy and sustainable places and communities by connecting and engaging residents in community-based programmes and services
4. Takes a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, tackling the root cause of the issue rather than simply treating the condition
5. Supports the role that local government plays in fostering community resilience
6. Provides person-centred care by identifying suitable social prescribing programmes and services suited to their wants and needs, increasing the likelihood of community engagement
7. Encourages self-management by involving individuals in the decision-making process, providing them with the information and knowledge they need to take a proactive approach to their health and wellbeing
8. Tackles health inequalities on an industrial scale, reducing pressures on the primary and secondary healthcare systems and decreasing avoidable GP appointments, readmission rates, delayed discharges, waiting times and A&E attendances
9. Targets people with multiple risks to their health (mental wellbeing, physical health and wider determinants) and treats the individual as a whole person, tackling the root cause of the issue rather than treating specific symptoms
10. Allows people to take a proactive approach and initiate an early intervention, preventing conditions from escalating further
With many social determinants falling within the remits of local government, the role of district councils in helping improve the health and wellbeing of local communities and ease the pressures on the healthcare system has become increasingly vital.
Social Prescribing in Action
With evidence suggesting 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, local councils such as Tandridge District Council and Reigate & Banstead Borough Council are recognising the benefits of taking a community-based approach to care and the impact that non-medical programmes and services can make to people’s lives.
Working in partnership with GP practices, Surrey Public Health and local voluntary and community organisations, Tandridge District Council and Reigate & Banstead Borough Council will be able to make instant social prescribing referrals to trained Wellbeing Advisors using Elemental’s Core social prescribing platform. Individuals can then be supported to improve aspects of their mental emotional and physical health and wellbeing.
Whilst helping to connect up all the different stakeholders and assets in the community to deliver a more encompassing service to the people in the local areas, the Core platform will also enable Tandridge District Council to demonstrate the value of their social impact and evidence their contribution to public health objectives.