Social prescribing is not a new concept; it’s been around for years, with many people describing social prescribing as the community development approach to health and wellbeing.
In fact, if GP surgeries were invented or reimagined tomorrow, then social prescription might lie at the very heart of their activities.
Interest in social prescribing has rapidly expanded over the past decade. Implementation of a variety of models is currently being supported by the use of a number of digital platforms aimed to scale and measure social prescribing in communities most in need.
Social prescribing is growing movement that connects people with a range of non clinical programmes, services and events in their local community – like walking groups, mental health counseling, debt management advice, employability skills, volunteering, family fitness, healthy cooking programmes, mindfulness sessions, and the ‘green prescription’ of gardening and food growing.
Social prescribing is the service that sits beyond the GPs prescription pad. It allows us to ask the question why, and solve broader health issues by tackling the social determinants. To our knowledge, there are no drugs available to end loneliness, build self esteem and community resilience, and tackle debt and poor housing conditions.
Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs. It seeks to address people’s needs across a number of areas such as physical activity, diet and nutrition, mental health and social support. It is often referred to as a ‘more than medicine’ approach to health and wellbeing based on the fact that the majority of long term conditions can be prevented by lifestyle change alone.
Social prescribing tends to follow these steps:
The need and the subsequent connection or referral is typically made by a clinician, social worker, pharmacist or more recently, housing officer. The individual is referred to a social prescribing hub when it is evident that they need more holistic support. This is often a centre where community navigators or link workers are based.
Link workers spend time with the individual, understanding the challenges they face, and considering the options of programmes, services and events that are locally available.
The individual is supported to choose activities best suited to such factors as their need, location, ability level, interest and availability. Together they co-create their social prescription engagement plan.
Introductions are made with the providers of the selected activities and individuals are supported to access and engage.
The uptake of the referral is monitored and the impact is measured.
The individual has a chance to thrive as they are provided with a sustainable way forward.
The demand to facilitate ‘self-referrals’ is increasing, which means that more people are looking to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing and find local solutions to the challenges they face.
There is a growing understanding surrounding the importance that health and wellbeing play in creating thriving communities and improving community wellbeing. The goal is a community that shifts the dial from consumers of scarce health resources to co-producers of healthy lives.
As a result, more and more organisations are seeing the social prescribing model of care as playing a significant role in improving lives by creating meaningful connections between clients and their communities – providing long term , cost effective solutions.
If you’re involved in social prescribing or interested in learning how to implement social prescribing in your community, join @SocialPresHour and follow #SocialPresHour every Wednesday, 8-9pm GMT, a dedicated conversation to all things social prescribing.