I attended a great conference last week, Social Prescribing – rhetoric to reality, organised by the King’s Fund. More than 420 people, including voluntary sector providers, health and social care commissioners, GPs, researchers and others came to hear about how social prescribing can help connect people with local community services to support their health and wellbeing.
The term social prescribing (SP) can describe anything from signposting to assessment and goal setting with an individual. The key is that “people should be supported to live the lives they want to live” (Duncan Selbie, CEO Public Health England). “It is about what matters to the person, not what is the matter with them” (Sam Everington, Chair of Tower Hamlets CCG)
There were great examples of where social prescribing is embedded with primary care services e.g. Halton, Rotherham. In other areas, GPs are starting to think about SP and it is gathering momentum. Social Prescribing is now identified by NHS England as one of the 10 High Impact Actions to release capacity in general practices.
There was a lot of discussion about gathering evidence of the difference made by social prescribing services. Voluntary Action Rotherham works with Sheffield Hallam University to have an on-going evaluation of their service. They are demonstrating a 6 – 11% reduction in non-elective admissions to hospital and 13 – 17% reduction in A&E attendance for patients with long-term health conditions. Preliminary research by the Social Prescribing Network shows an average of 28% reduction in GP appointments and 24% fall in A&E attendances across all the schemes they included in desktop research. These reductions could represent real savings to the NHS.
Reading’s Social Prescribing service supported 129 patients in 2016/17, referred by GPs, occupational therapists and Talking Therapies. Patients reported improvements in their wellbeing, particularly feeling more positive, having some meaningful activity (e.g. volunteering) and being able to manage health symptoms. And we have had some great feedback from patients and GPs
- “I have been an ‘early adopter’ of the social prescribing project as it just seemed to make sense as a GP who takes a holistic approach to health. So much of our perception of our day to day health is driven by and influenced by our mood, our support, our purpose” Reading GP
- It’s actually quite a step to recognize that one is lonely, never mind acknowledging that one needs help to overcome it. I feel that today’s meeting with you was a very positive first step” Patient
- How can we improve the service? “Perhaps by making it more well-known and available. It certainly helped me through a very low period in my life” Patient
- How useful was your first appointment? “She suggested various activities for me to help fill the void of the sudden and unexpected death of a dear friend” Patient
We are continuing to develop the Social Prescribing service in Reading and are planning an event to explore how we can better link patients with the multitude of activities and services offered by Reading voluntary and community sector. More details to follow.