What is social prescribing and what are the benefits?

What is social prescribing and what are the benefits?

Social prescribing is not a new concept; it’s been around for years, with many people describing it as the community development approach to health and wellbeing. But what is social prescribing? And, what are the benefits?

Social prescribing is...

A growing movement

Social prescribing is a 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.

A service that goes beyond the GPs prescription pad

Interest in the concept has rapidly expanded over the past decade with the implementation of a variety of models currently being supported by the use of a number of digital platforms aimed to scale and measure social prescribing in communities most in need.

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.

Empowering over 250 locations to deliver digital social prescribing

We’re the social prescribing platform of choice across health, housing, community and local authority in the UK and Ireland. Over 300 GPs, Community Officers and Neighbourhood Coaches are now able to make and manage safe and easy referrals. And that’s not all, measurement and reporting features mean it’s now even easier to report on the effectiveness of social prescribing in your community.

Backed by the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock

Entitled “Prevention is better than cure”, Matt Hancock’s Prevention Strategy emphasises preventative healthcare and highlights a shift towards community care services and the value they can bring in offering early support.  We’re fully behind this bid to empower patients as this is one of the main reasons we designed Elemental Self Refer , a tool that allows anyone to refer themselves directly to a Community Connector or into quality assured social prescribing activities.

Helping to shape and inform the future landscape

We’re being asked more and more to help inform the scaling and future of social prescribing. We’ve been working with Finland to help  with their health and social care reform and were brought on board to help the Mayor of London create his vision for social prescribing just before the summer. The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, also chose us to help the West Midlands become a place where health and innovation benefit vulnerable communities.

So, how does Social Prescribing work?

Meet Oliver, a 56 year old man who had a stroke 6 months ago. The stroke affected Oliver's speech and mobility slightly. He's felt isolated since and lacks social connections due to his family living in another city. Oliver needs help with motivation to keep up exercising. Oliver is also experiencing symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.

What are the challenges associated with social prescribing?

Based on our experience as community development workers and the research we have carried out over the years we've encountered many of the challenges stakeholders face in regards to implementing, adopting and scaling social prescribing including:

Not everyone access to digital

Community uptake resistance

Data Protection - GDPR - Online safety

Budget - Unaware of funding that's available or if eligible.

Already have systems in place

Getting buy-in - changing mindsets and culture change.

5 Tips to progress your social prescribing

We've found that some communities need additional support at the beginning of their social prescribing journey on how and where to get started. Here are 5 Top Tips that our customers have used to help them get started and progress their social prescribing projects.

1. Get everyone together in the community

2. Establish where you’re at

3. Review what’s working well, what isn’t?

4. What shared resources and assets are available?

5. Establish where you want to be - Use SMART Goals

Assessing your Digital Maturity

The Digital Maturity Index for Social Prescribing is designed to show the levels of maturity that exists and can be achieved through the use of digital and information technology to support Social Prescribing. Our DMI (Digital Maturity Index) Tool allows you to assess where your social prescribing programme is and the next steps to progressing up the scale.

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