What is… Social prescription?

A social group enjoying a stroll through the countryside.

Social prescription is a form of treatment in which a GP refers a patient to local non-clinical services. These are often run by volunteer-led organisations within the community. Social prescription may include social activities such as group learning, sports or art. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘green social prescribing’ has also become more prevalent with activities such as walking, community gardening and food -growing projects.

Social prescribing is suitable for anyone dealing with one or more long-term health conditions, those who need mental health support, people who are lonely or isolated, and those with complex social needs.

There is growing evidence to suggest that social prescription improves emotional and mental wellbeing. Group activities can keep the mind stimulated, and the social aspect can help to decrease feelings of loneliness. Some activities may even help with independence or encourage positive outlets for stress or frustration. There is also evidence to suggest that social prescription helps to reduce pressure on the NHS and other clinical services.

Who can refer you?

You can be referred by a wide range of local agencies, including your GP, pharmacy, hospital discharge team, the fire or police service and job centres. You may also be able to self-refer; it’s worth contacting your local GP’s practice to see if they offer social prescription services and whether you can get an appointment to discuss referral.

After referral, you will be allocated a link worker. You and your link worker will work together to identify areas that interest you, or what things that are important to you, in order to connect you to services that can improve your wellbeing. Link workers can also offer practical and emotional support.

Although NHS England states that social prescription is not currently available across the country, 60% of CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups: NHS groups responsible for health care services in their local area) offer social prescription. NHS England is also aiming to have over 1,000 trained social prescribing link workers in place by the end of this year 2021.

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