There are great benefits to social prescribing for individuals and NHS organisations. Promising signs have emerged on the impact social prescribing has within the UK with robust evidence still needed.
Individuals across the country have been outspoken in how the service has helped them. The benefits of social prescribing seem to prevail for both UK residents and the health and social care sector.
But what are the biggest potential benefits?
The benefits of social prescribing for organisations
Social prescribing reduces workload issues
The five-year framework for GP contract reform labels social prescribing as a method to address workload issues as there is a shortfall in, among others, GPs. As doctors spend a good deal of their time addressing social issues patients are facing, social prescribing offers a solution.
Social prescribing can help address debt or housing issues, feelings of loneliness, eating habits, and much more. Rather than a time slot for the GPs to offer help in these issues, they can assign this cohort of patients to a social prescribing link worker.
There are great signs and optimism that social prescribing offers a solution for general practices.
- A survey by the Royal College of General Practitioners reveals 59% of family doctors believe social prescribing can help reduce their workload.
- A local evaluation at Wideway Medical Practice in Merton revealed pre-COVID GP appointments were reduced by 33%.
But it’s not just the General Practices that benefit from social prescribing. A Rotherham study showed reductions in inpatient and outpatient hospital admissions.
Social prescribers are 100% funded
If you’re looking to set up a social prescribing service within your Primary Care Network or General Practice, then there are no additional charges to your organisation. The NHS fully funds the role of the social prescriber to support the adoption of this method.
Additional roles, as presented under the Network Contract DES are now also funded. These include the Health and Wellbeing Coach and Care Coordinator.
Social prescribing and improvement of overall health
Social prescribing addresses, amongst other things, wider social determinants of health. Social prescribing in this area offers non-medical interventions. If these interventions prove to offer fruitful results for individuals, it could mean the UK as a whole is building a mentally and physically healthier nation with, as a result, a reduction in the need for medical help.
The great potential benefit lies in reducing the strain on the NHS. With more dedicated time for health professionals to reply swiftly to urgent cases, time is freed up and a healthier nation is built.
The benefits of social prescribing for individuals
Dedicated time from a professional
As GPs are often on a tight and busy schedule, there is little time for a patient to discuss their genuine worries. Normal GP consultations last 10 minutes.
Social prescribing ensures there is a dedicated 45-minute time slot to discuss concerns. In collaboration an action plan is hashed out that is personalised to the patient and their needs.
This steer towards personalised care is a key focus of the NHS as they have set out that 2.5 million people will benefit from personalised care by 2024. The key is to empower people to make choices that provide with control over their health, be it physical or mental.
Social prescribing tackles feelings of loneliness and isolation during COVID-19
As the world was faced with coronavirus at the start of 2020, new issues started to arise. Lockdown meant feelings of loneliness and isolation rose to the surface. Social prescribing has offered help to tackle these feelings both during lockdown and as the country eased out of it earlier this year.
New initiatives and voluntary services have seen a surge in demand. The government took note and expanded their funding for the field. For many individuals these services have offered the necessary support during lockdown and will potentially offer help again during and after the second lockdown.
Social prescribing is targeted at a range of patients
Another benefit to UK citizens is that social prescribing is not limited to one specific group, but can be used by many different people who struggle with certain physical or mental health issues.
The approach to social prescribing is “what matters to them” meaning people who are socially prescribed get a tailored action plan with activities or referrals to services that potentially work specifically for that person. This person-centred approach means it is more likely significant results follow, such as an improvement in anxiety levels, quality of life and general health.
The above highlights some of the most important potential benefits of social prescribing, but it certainly is not an exhaustive list. Do you believe there to be other benefits of social prescribing?