“Social Prescribing is a way of linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community. It provides GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and well-being.” York University 2015.
People in family, social and other networks (e.g. workplace) also support each other, offering encouragement and information on exercise, giving up smoking, healthy relationships and so on. Therefore, most people are “social prescribing” for themselves and others already; identifying things and doing things that they need to do to stay healthy and well, and helping others to do the same.
However, some people, some of the time, need a bit of extra support. For example, they might face a range of challenges that have got on top of them and have support needs that exceed the capabilities of their family or social networks. Examples might include people who have:
experienced a recent bereavement or relationship breakdown, which has led to them withdrawing from social networks and becoming depressed and isolated;
had a deterioration in their physical or mental health that is affecting their ability to do the things they used to do to stay well;
just moved into a community where they have no support network – perhaps being unaware that there are things going on in the community that would be right up their street (literally and figuratively); or,
be struggling to find the time or the money to do things they used to do because they are spending more time looking after a partner or loved one.
Without support, the health and wellbeing of some people in situations like these deteriorates and they increasingly depend on public services – e.g. by turning up at the GP frequently, falling behind on their rent, struggling to get the kids to school, being referred for a social care assessment, or, being admitted to hospital with medical issues resulting from self-neglect or an unchecked health issue.
Solutions for improving the health and well-being of people from marginalised and disadvantaged groups that place greater emphasis on preventative interventions have become increasingly common in public policy. Social prescribing commissions services that will prevent worsening health for people with existing Long Term Conditions (LTCs) and reduce costly interventions in specialist care. It links patients and their carers with non-medical sources of support within the community.
It is tailor-made for Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) led interventions and can result in:
better social and clinical outcomes for people with LTCs and their carers
more cost efficient and effective use of NHS and social care resources
a wider, more diverse and responsive local provider base.
Our work is evaluated by Sheffield Hallam University Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research. The links to our evaluations are listed below.