What are the Benefits of Social Prescribing?

Published: 02/04/2019

Have you heard of social prescribing? In our latest blog we look at this healthcare phenomenon and how it could ease pressure on healthcare services and benefit people across Wandsworth.

Social prescribing is a phrase that’s increasingly been in the headlines over the last few years. So, what is it and how could this new approach help in solving some of our most critical health care issues?

What is social prescribing?

With increasing pressures on the NHS and GP services, the healthcare system is looking to new ways of supporting people with health problems beyond purely medical intervention. Although medicines are obviously an important element of treating many conditions, they’re not the only solution. Maintaining good social connections, having confidence and self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life are all essential elements of your mental and physical wellbeing.

Step forward, social prescribing. This scheme allows GPs to refer patients to non-medical facilities to help improve their quality of life. These support groups may be run by the NHS, local council, charities or voluntary groups, it’s a real mix. The important thing is that they help address the root cause of the patient’s health problems.

For example, someone with depression might visit their GP. Whilst medication may be answer to the symptoms, it doesn’t tackle the underlying issue that’s causing the depression. With social prescribing, the GP can look at non-medical interventions that address the root cause. So, if the person is depressed because they have no social relationships, referring them to a local community group might help improve their quality of life. Or if their condition is a result of caring for someone with dementia, the GP can refer them to a dementia or family carers support group.

Social prescribing in our local area

A key focus in freeing up NHS services, particularly GP services and Emergency Care, social prescribing is one of the 10 High Impact Actions designed to release time for care.

Here in Wandsworth, the future for social prescribing looks bright. At a recent event to celebrate Social Prescribing Day, NHS Merton and Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Groups reported that a successful social prescribing trial in neighbouring Merton could be set to roll out across the Borough of Wandsworth.

In Merton, the year-long pilot focussed on patients who went to their GP very frequently or expressed problems like social isolation, mental health issues or recent hospital admissions. The evaluation report in to the NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group pilot scheme demonstrates that social prescribing referrals led to a 50% reduction in visits to A&E and 33% fewer GP visits. An impressive 77% of patients also reported improved wellbeing. It’s hoped that this model could be introduced with similar success in Wandsworth soon.

Supporting people in Wandsworth

Through our work providing homecare services in Wandsworth, were know how important community support is in helping to improve people’s quality of life. We’re excited to see how social prescribing could help both healthcare services and members of the local community.

You can find out more about the topic on the Social Prescribing Network’s website.