The King’s Fund hosted a conference on 6th November bringing together established and developing Social Prescribing (SP) services, NHS acute trusts, GPs and many voluntary organisation interested in being part of the Social Prescribing movement.
The conference kicked off with a breakfast discussion about how social prescribing can help reduce the demand on secondary services for people with long-term health conditions. Most SP services were set up to support people referred by GPs, i.e. primary healthcare. In Reading we are already having discussions about how SP can support people who have care and support plans for their diabetes, and for people who are completing pulmonary rehabilitation programmes. And many people referred by GPs have a range of long-term health conditions where exercise, healthy eating or a support group can help to maintain or improve their health.
We heard from Matt Hancock MP, the Minister for Health and Social Care who made the link between arts and culture and wellbeing, giving an example of singing as a good way of improving lung function. He said that SP is “fundamental to prevention” and “an indispensable tool for GPs”. He was questioned about the financial sustainability of front-line voluntary services which ultimately provide the support for clients who are signposted to them through SP. Some schemes do have funding following the client to the front-line organisation – this is not the model we have in Reading. At the Wellbeing Forum on 12th December, we want to explore this issue further.
The Government will be announcing the launch of a national academy for Social Prescribing, to be a resource for GPs and front-line workers and a repository for research. I will share more details when available.
The Social Prescribing Network will be launching a consultation about an outcomes framework for Social Prescribing, led by NHS England. Again, watch this space.
As always, the conference provided plenty of opportunity for networking and will lead to several follow-up conversations with colleagues in the Social Prescribing world as well as Berkshire West CCG.