Social Prescribing is Coming of Age
A response to Theresa May’s promising pledge to Tackle Loneliness through Social Prescribing
Back in January, we predicted that 2018 was set to be the biggest year yet for social prescribing, and we can’t help but feel that our prognosis rings true ten months on.
Despite the concept of social prescribing being around for many years, this year more than ever, we have seen major movements within the social prescribing landscape.
Major Social Prescribing News Hitting the Headlines
Just this week, Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Government’s first loneliness strategy which will see all GPs in England being able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
Launching the first government loneliness strategy, Theresa May announced that social prescribing will have significant impact on the bid to reduce demand on the NHS and improve patients’ quality of life, with plans for the new approach to be in place by 2023. In addition, the prime minister announced an extra £1.8m for community projects, such as creating new community cafes, art spaces or gardens.
As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage said:
“Loneliness can be detrimental to our health and it’s unacceptable that so many people still suffer in silence from this social injustice. That’s why it’s so important we are taking concerted action to tackle the problem, building on previous investment in social prescribing schemes to see healthcare professionals play a vital role in signposting people to local community services.”
Earlier this year, Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock vowed to foster a new “prevention and perspiration” approach to health and wellbeing. Pledging £4.5m investment towards social prescribing schemes such as gardening and arts clubs, the Health and social care secretary said helping individuals before their condition deteriorated through social prescribing was necessary to empower people to have more control over their own health, as well as relieving pressure on the NHS.
Corporates and huge highstreet names are too recognising the benefits of social prescribing and aiming to build greater connection within communities. Brands including Sainsbury’s have announced community initiatives, such as Talking Tables, which encourage people to meet, join in conversations and ultimately feel less lonely. Numbers are also on the up.
A survey by GPonline earlier this year also found that nearly a quarter of GPs are regularly using social prescribing to refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to non-clinical services, up from one in five GPs in comparison to last year. So what are the next steps for those already practising social prescribing or for those wanting to get started?
Shaping a Strategy and getting Stakeholder Engagement - Where to begin?
We understand that when you’ve got a big social prescribing picture in mind and an idea that you truly believe will have a positive impact on your community, it can often be difficult to know where to start and get everyone onboard to drive the vision forward. Here at Elemental, we pride ourselves in the fact that we’ve got first hand experience in community development and we understand the challenges that communities face in reducing health inequalities.
It’s all about understanding what’s already there, what’s working well and involving the local community in designing and delivering an approach that matters to them.
We offer a meaningful partnership that is inclusive of all the community stakeholders involved in health and wellness, supporting you to embed the foundations of a shared vision and a sustainable approach to stronger and more resilient communities. Drop us a line to find out more.
Enhancing Social Prescribing by Embracing Digital
Additionally, we have experienced a shift toward digital social prescribing with more organisations recognising the benefits of working beyond a paper-based approach.
As part of this shift, Greater Authority London commissioned Elemental to examine what the digital and information technology landscape looks like across relevant sectors involved in delivering social prescribing and introduce the Digital Maturity Index for social prescribing in a recent report.
GPs Already Leading The Way
The digital movement is also prevalent within the health sector, with GP practices including Maassarani Group practice using social prescribing platforms to instantly refer individuals into non-clinical sources of support to enhance their health and wellbeing. By using digital, GPs have the ability to track cohorts and monitor the progress of social prescribing referrals,enabling them to provide enhanced support to those that need it most.
Jennifer Neff, Elemental Co-Founder said “The conversation has now shifted from ‘what is social prescribing’ to ‘how can digital be used to scale and better measure the impact of social prescribing’. The VCSE sector is embracing digital to demonstrate the social impact of what they do and to co create social prescriptions which can be effectively tracked and monitored.”
Let's Continue the Conversation
It’s fitting that the theme for the annual King’s Fund conference is social prescribing: coming of age. Social prescribing is indeed growing, maturing, building awareness, creating conversations and gaining worthy recognition from key policymakers and media.
We’d like to continue and build on these conversations. In collaboration with the College of Medicine and the Social Prescribing Network, the conference on November 6th will move on to explore how social prescribing can be measured and the impact it is already having on outcomes for patients.
As Digital Supporters, Elemental will host an interactive panel session, titled technology by itself does not transform, alongside representatives from the health, housing and VCSE sector. Chaired by Healthcare, IT and business consultant, Martin Bell the breakout session will discuss
- -How digital technologies can support and enable social prescribing programmes
- -How making digital technologies everyone’s business can make implementation easier
- -Ways to dispel the fear around digital and put community at the core
- -How to avoid digital technologies becoming the dominant force in change projects