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October 17, 2018

Spend to save

Barely a day passes without some news story that primary healthcare services are in crisis – usually linked to a chronic shortage of GPs. Running in parallel are equally depressing tales of community health projects going under for want of (relatively) small sums of money. And squeezed in between these pressures are the hapless NHS managers who control the budgets, say they are desperate to invest in more preventative work, upstream from the GPs, but never quite get round to achieving it. Embedding the concept of social prescribing into the heart of system would be good place to start.


Third Force News, by Gareth Jones

A project that could help change the face of medical care has been given a funding boost.

The Social Prescribing Project will bring together partners from across Scotland and Northern Ireland, having received £3 million in funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing (SCHW) and the Northern Ireland Healthy Living Centre Alliance (HLCA) will deliver the partnership in project, with support from a range of other groups.

Social prescribing links primary medical care to community based resources and local support services and is backed by a social model for health. This recognises that good health and wellbeing are influenced by a wide range of individual, interpersonal, organisational, social, environmental, political and economic factors.

Local medical and social work professionals, including GPs and practice nurses, will be able to use social prescribing to refer patients who are isolated or experiencing loneliness or presenting with social psychological and anxiety symptoms to a link person – the social prescriber.

This person will work with an individual to develop a health pathway, which includes access to a range of local resources, activities and services, including stress management, volunteering opportunities, formal and informal learning, parent support activities and healthy lifestyle/active travel activities such as walking, football and cycling. Most importantly each participant receives one to one support at all stages from the social prescriber, including introductions to formal and informal community groups and community assets to assist in reconnecting and reducing loneliness and isolation.

Ten organisations across Scotland will each receive £40,000 per year for at least three years to develop and deliver the project. They will be responsible for the delivery of the social prescribing for each patient. Each social prescribers will be based in the local community led health organisations, which allows them to draw on their knowledge and understanding of their communities.

The Social Prescribing Project in Scotland’s John Cassidy said: “Social prescribing could change the way primary care is developed for current and future generations. It is a holistic approach that can help reduce medication and improve health and wellbeing. It empowers patients and communities, supports greater independence and reduces reliance on primary healthcare, ultimately delivering better outcomes for people and society.

“Individuals will be supported to increase their skills and to learn new skills to help them achieve their goals and aspirations. They will increase their confidence and self-esteem and develop their social networks, enabling them to become reconnected to their communities, friends and families.”