UK Government pledge to invest in social prescribing
This week, we welcomed another huge leap forward for social prescribing, in the form of a promising public pledge from the government to invest nearly £4.5m in non-clinical schemes across England.
The announcement came via a statement in The Times from new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, who vowed to give GPs alternatives to “unsophisticated drugs” and pledged to expand schemes to treat patients with mental health problems through social and non-clinical activities.
Promoting the benefits of evidence based options
Mr Hancock told The Times that he wanted clinicians to “have access to the widest range of evidence-based options”. He said: “Evidence has shown the potential benefits of approaches like social prescribing, which addresses people’s physical and mental wellbeing and has been shown to both improve patients’ quality of life and reduce pressure on other NHS services.”
We’re delighted to see the recent announcement from Matt Hancock backing social prescribing and pledging to give GPs alternatives to “unsophisticated drugs”. His plans to expand schemes to treat patients with mental health problems through social activities is something we’re extremely excited about and we’re continuing to champion this with ongoing projects throughout the UK. Leeann Monk-Ozgul, Elemental Co-founder and Co CEO
Translating and streamlining social prescribing into front-line GP services
The Royal College of GPs has also backed social prescribing and called for schemes in every surgery, arguing that an exercise class or other activity that simply gets people out of the house can “transform patients’ lives” by improving both mental and physical health.
RCGP chairwoman, Helen Stokes-Lampard has however voiced her concerns on how the promise would translate into front-line GP services.
“The standard ten-minute GP consultation is increasingly inadequate to properly deliver care to patients with complex health needs — which mental health conditions invariably are.” Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of RCGP
We asked Elemental Co-founder and Co CEO Leeann Monk Ozgul her thoughts on the operational aspects and if she saw any potential barriers to implementing the newly allocated funding.
“With many social prescribing projects the referral for a patient is initiated by a GP, however what we have also seen in existing projects across the UK is that many other people right across health, social care, housing, emergency services and even elected representatives are also initiating the referral process and connecting citizens to their local social prescribing hubs in their area.”
It is great to see social prescribing being supported by the RCGP and with this type of social prescription model being adopted more and more, there’s huge potential to release capacity for GPs. Even in the case that the GP does initiate the referral, supporting the existing model with a digital platform can give any health professional the ability to make a referral in under 60 seconds.” Leeann Monk-Ozgul, Elemental Co-founder and Co CEO
GPs already leading the way
Already leading the way with social prescribing, Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care Foundation Trust (T&G ICFT) are social prescribing champions and a trust who believe in the potential of social referrals and prescriptions. Through use of Elementals’ social prescribing platform that integrates with EMIS, GPs in Tameside and Glossop can effectively make one click referrals, and view referral updates all the way through from a link worker’s baseline assessment results to attendance logs by a community provider.
Chris Easton, Head of Person and Community Centred Approaches at T&G ICFT said “We have a responsibility as a health and care system to ensure that we support people with the things that affect their health and the widest possible sense. Doing so delivers strong outcomes for individuals, but also the system by ensuring that people’s needs are met in the most appropriate way.”
Encouraging and empowering GPs
Back in December, Simon Stevens, Head of the NHS, made a public speech to urge every GP to consider prescribing lifestyle changes instead of turning to medication.
Mr Stevens said “Rather than ‘a pill for every ill’, social prescribing is a new way of helping certain people get better and stay healthy. For people who are stressed or depressed, who have chronic pain, or with other long term health problems, social prescribing is often worth trying either in place of drugs or alongside other usual care. It would be good to see all GPs considering whether their patients might benefit.”
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You may also be interested in:
Two Greater London Authority Commissioned Reports
VCSE Sector Engagement and Social Prescribing
This report, commissioned by the GLA, looks at the role of the VCSE sector in scaling social prescribing in London – in particular, the role of the sector in effective delivery of services, the challenges and opportunities the sector faces and the support required, as well as outlining its future role.
Social Prescribing and the Digital Landscape
This report into digital and information technology and how it can support social prescribing, forms part of the overall report for the Greater London Authority for the Mayor’s vision around social prescribing, and should be read in conjunction with that.