The first question you may be asking is what is social prescribing? That’s exactly what I wanted to know too as I saw the term being used during lots of conversations by people in our sector. The concept is simple but impressively innovative. In its current and most popular format, it allows mainly medical and health professionals to refer patients to a range of local non-clinical services.
We know that 1 in 5 appointments to a GP is for something other than a medical problem. Examples include low confidence, low self-esteem and other social, emotional and practical needs. This appears to have been one of the really big drivers to explain why social prescribing is talked about so often. It asks if medicine isn't the only option and aims to put the customer first.
If we look at the Long Term plans of NHS England, then this may not be a buzz word or a fad that goes as quickly as it comes, but part of something more permanent. The idea is to have link workers (also known as community connectors, wellbeing advisors, community navigators, health advisors etc) to support close to 1 million people by 2023/24. The role of a link worker is dual. They support people with understanding the cause and help them to create a plan to replace it. They also work to identify suitable community groups and other statutory services that can become a part of the solution for those who have been referred. They recognise the vital roles community groups can play so supporting these groups to be accessible and sustainable as well as helping people to setup new groups is also an important part of the role.
This all sounds great! I wanted to see in practice how social prescribing worked in my local area of Nelson in East Lancashire. I found out about the Social Prescribing Team at the local council for voluntary service. The team accepted referrals on their website form from GP’s, health practitioners, social workers and interestingly self-referrals from individuals themselves and their families. The website also has examples of case studies such as a referral into Lancashire Women for an individual for support in applying for a personal independent payment (pip). Another person was struggling with low confidence and financial troubles and was referred to a community group as well as to the local foodbank. Another example was of an elderly lady who was feeling lonely and was connected to the local crafting group which she now attends on a weekly basis. There is also social prescribing funding available in my area through the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group with groups eligible to apply for up to £5000 towards their social prescribing project.
So there you have it. Perhaps social prescribing is something you want to explore for your organisation. A great way to connect with other organisations, to deliver your services to those who really need them and to increase your capacity to apply for funding opportunities.
Useful links related to Social Prescribing:
Thriving Communities Fund https://socialprescribingacademy.org.uk/thriving-communities/thriving-communities-fund/
National Lottery https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/insights/social-prescribing
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Blog Post by Rashid Hussain, Funder and Charity Lead at All Ways Network. He can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org