Many things affect our health and wellbeing – finances, social environment, what’s going on at home, to name a few.
For example, people may visit their GP because they may be feeling stressed about their work, money, or because they are lonely and isolated. The impact that these issues can have on our physical and mental wellbeing has been particularly clear as the nation responds to COVID-19.
But these problems cannot be fixed by medicine, or doctors, alone.
That’s where social prescribing comes in. Social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.
It helps people get more control over their healthcare, to manage their needs and in a way that suits them. It can especially help people who:
- have one or more long-term condition
- need support with their mental health
- are lonely or isolated
- have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.
Social prescribing links them to a range of activities that are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations, for example, volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.
When social prescribing works well, people can be easily referred to social prescribing link workers from within their local area, for example, from the NHS – general practice, pharmacies, multi-disciplinary teams, hospital discharge teams – to fire service, police, job centres, social care services, housing associations and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. People can also refer themselves.
There are also other forms of referral to community-based support. A wide range of ‘community connectors’ – for example, many staff working in community centres, libraries, youth clubs or for charities – can signpost or recommend activities and support in their area.