A year ago today we launched our first strategy, A Social Revolution In Wellbeing, setting out our hugely ambitious agenda to help social prescribing thrive across the UK. A few days later  we entered our first national ‘lockdown’ as a whole country, due of course to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, the past year has not presented ideal circumstances to establish a dynamic new charity, with all of the inevitable challenges that major start-ups bring. Like most organisations, we have needed to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and embrace innovative ways to achieve our objectives rather than simply pursue those envisaged when we started out.

The tumultuous past year has clearly demonstrated the vital role social prescribing can play in supporting people to maintain their health and wellbeing, even in the most challenging of circumstances. The impact that the disease itself  and the lockdowns and restrictions has had on people and communities has also clarified the need to better equip individuals and society with the tools to face future challenges and to tackle health inequalities with greater urgency and focus.

We are very pleased by what we have achieved during our first year. We have recruited a brilliant staff team – without the opportunity to even meet in person. We have put together the organisational process and infrastructure needed to function, and made rapid progress on a number of major strategic programmes.

In August we were delighted to become the first registered charity in the world dedicated to the advancement of social prescribing.

We launched our Thriving Communities Programme in October, creating a vibrant network of partners, a learning together hub and regional representatives who have undertaken some truly amazing local work.  Working in close partnership with Arts Council, Sport England, Natural England, the Money and Pensions Advisory Service, NHS England and Improvement, and Historic England, we also launched our Thriving Communities Fund, which will see £1.8m worth of grants distributed to innovative local community programmes imminently.

In November, we worked with ukactive and NHS England and Improvement to support a programme that will see the sports and leisure industry support our primary care networks with half a million hours of free sports and exercise provision for those in need.

We supported the Southbank Centre to support their brilliant ‘Art by Post’ initiative, reaching thousands of people – and we will be helping them tour this uplifting concept later in the year.

To get the message about the power of social prescribing, we’ve worked with high profile individuals to launch our new #OneGoodThing microcampaign, highlighting the power social prescribing activities can have on our wellbeing. Our new podcast, ‘Podcast on Prescription’ showcases the opportunities available through social prescribing through interviews with influential people – please do check out the first episodes featuring actor Tanya Franks and presenter David Lindo.

In February we launched a ground breaking Academic Partners Collaborative, with the aim of improving the evidence basis for social prescribing and making existing evidence more accessible for those working in primary care.

And just last month we worked with partners the World Health Innovation Summit (WHIS), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Global Sustainability Index Institute (UNSGII) to establish a Global Social Prescribing Alliance which aims to spread the word of social prescribing globally, linking this to the implementation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

None of this would have been possible without the brilliant support of all of our partners and stakeholders. We are grateful to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, for his vision to establish National Academy for Social Prescribing and support us with our first programme grant in August 2020. We are thankful to all of the individuals and organisations that have partnered with us so far on the delivery of our objectives. We are immensely grateful to every member of our staff and all our contractors for their tireless work in helping us get established in such a bizarre time.

We are so very fortunate to work with many amazing people who have continued to deliver social prescribing over the course of the past year to individuals and communities across the country. To all the link workers, health care staff, and people within the amazing and vibrant voluntary community faith and social enterprise sectors supporting social prescribing – thank you from the bottom of our hearts  for all of your amazing work and commitment to enabling people to live their best life. We look forward to working with you all to take this even further in the near future.

Helen and James

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard PhD FRCGP James Sanderson

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair, National Academy for Social Prescribing

James Sanderson, Chief Executive Officer, National Academy for Social Prescribing