Organisations and many people across the country came together last week to celebrate National Social Prescribing Day.
It’s an annual event which recognises how local, non-clinical services are helping people lead healthier lives while easing pressure on the NHS.
Social prescribing has been around for a few years. It is a fantastic way for those who are lonely, living with dementia or who have a mild mental illness to get non-medical help.
I passionately believe that social prescribing can be empowering and potentially life-changing. People who are lonely and isolated have found a new lease of life through a befriending group, or sports such as football or angling.
There are some phenomenal stories that illustrate how social prescribing can ease pressure on NHS services and reduce waiting lists. One health centre in Brighton (featured above) said that rather than handing out opiate prescriptions to those with drug addiction, the non-medical therapy they’re offering has helped to get to the root of the problem and led to a 41 per cent reduction in the need for GP appointments.
It’s easy to understand why it is having such an impact. Taking part in a physical or social activity can improve your quality of life and boost your health and wellbeing, research shows. I’m sure there are some Sunday Express readers who would benefit from these non-medical interventions.
Thanks to the efforts of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, as well as NHS England, other partners and local providers including the many voluntary, community and social enterprise groups, the help you need is more available than ever before.
Around 1.6 million referrals have been made to social prescribing services – 700,000 more than we aimed for – and NHS England has smashed its target to recruit 1,000 NHS link workers, with more than 3,000 now working across Britain.
They spend time getting to know the person who needs help so they can connect them with community activities and services that provide support, including financial, welfare and legal advice.
The Government is backing social prescribing with money. Just before Christmas, we announced additional funding of £3.6million this financial year and the next.
The National Academy for Social Prescribing has called these interventions “hope on prescription”. I hope that many more who need this support get in touch with these services to benefit from them.