Social prescribing saw great changes during 2020. During the pandemic the service offered help across the country for people struggling with loneliness and isolation as periods of national or local lockdown were introduced.
Furthermore, new funding, a plethora of initiatives and a vast change in using digital services changed social prescribing during this most challenging of challenging years.
Challenging indeed, but also positive for the value people see in the service and the position social prescribing holds. We’ll run you through the great changes social prescribing has seen over the past 12 months.
1. Government awards £5 million in funding to NASP
A great triumph for social prescribing was when the government announced they were to award the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) £5 million to support people coping with isolation and loneliness.
The funding would allow the NASP to designate money to important parties and programmes that would reduce loneliness and isolation that has risen to a great extend during the pandemic.
One of the most recent programmes announced by the NASP, the Thriving Communities Programme, sets out to support the work of voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups that support communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
2. Green social prescribing scheme launches
Lockdown has made many see the value in the outdoors for both mental and physical health. The government took note of that and decided to put £4 million into a green social prescribing programme aimed at tackling mental ill health.
The project is set to be a two-year project that looks at improving mental health as well as reducing health inequalities and reducing the demand on health and social care services.
3. Surge in number of social prescribers
In the NHS Long Term Plan as published in January 2019, the NHS set out to recruit 1,000 link workers by March 2021.
The NHS surpassed this target some time ago with a report last August that they had over 1,200 social prescribers working across the country and they were driving to hire an additional 500 link workers.
As more link workers become a part of the UK workforce, more people will be able to make use of social prescribing services. This on the long term aims at reducing wider health determinants, which in the end results in a healthier nation.
4. DES states two additional roles in the social prescribing field
Two additional roles, the Health and Wellbeing Coach and Care Coordinator, have been added to the social prescribing package on offer to Primary Care Networks.
The Network Contract DES published in March 2020 stated these two additional roles would – like the link worker role – be fully funded by the NHS.
These roles provide additional support to the social prescribing team, allowing for more personalised care within the service, as the Long Term Plan and Personalised Care aims to do.
5. Social prescribing moves online
Both providers of social prescribing interventions, link workers and other related roles have had to make significant changes in how they contact individuals during the pandemic.
Rather than an in-person conversation and in-person group activities, social prescribing has had to adapt.
Though challenging at times, the service has shown its resilience throughout the pandemic. Some group activities moved outside, others took place via video or voice calling.
What to you have been the most important changes to social prescribing in 2020?