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August 8, 2019

Making social prescribing work for everyone

The idea of social prescribing has started to become well known in the last few years, and there are now around 100 local schemes in the UK. The governments loneliness strategy for England – a Connected Society – made the commitment that by 2023 all GPs in England will be able to refer patients to social prescribing connecter schemes. Social prescribing is a way to support people’s wellbeing and quality of life while reducing pressure on the NHS. It links patients with physical or mental health conditions, or people who may be lonely, isolated or experiencing stress for example, to community based activities, rather than simply prescribing them medicine.

But what do we know about it? How effective is it? Is it an approach that should be more widely adopted? The National Lottery Community Fund’s Ageing Better Programme has just published a report – Connecting communities and healthcare: Making social prescribing work for everyone – which uses insights and examples from the community and voluntary sector to seek to answer these questions. It focuses on practical, day to day learning which may be useful for those who are thinking of designing new social prescribing schemes or expanding or improving existing ones.

The report highlights the need for:

  • A systematic approach to funding that nurtures and enables collaboration between statutory and community providers and ensures that money reaches all parts of the system, so the volume of demand is not simply transferred from health care to the voluntary sector.
  • Link workers with a blend of experience, knowledge and personal qualities to adeptly support individuals in need while also influencing key stakeholders at strategic and system-wide level.
  • Effectively supporting key staff through supervision, peer support, remuneration and the resources to avoid burn out and overload.
  • The importance of intentionally generating, gathering and sharing evidence of all kinds, which demonstrates the benefits and impact of social prescribing on people, community organisations and the health and social care system.

We’re delighted that two projects funded by Time to Shine have been used in the report as positive examples of good development and practice:

The case study from Age UK Leeds (p 13 of the report) highlights the importance of partnership (one organisation can’t do it all), and of person-centred approaches – taking the time to ask and understand what the person would like to achieve and helping them to achieve that.

The example on page 30 of the report outlines how and why Time to Shine’s SWIFt project developed.

We’re very pleased that some of the great work being done in Leeds is contributing to what is being learnt nationally about social prescribing, and the work of the Ageing Better programme as a whole is playing such a large role.

Rob Cook
Communications Officer, Time to Shine