Our new approach to driving forward social prescribing across the regions of England
The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) launched a strategy for 2023-2026 with a focus on five key areas which need to develop to enable social prescribing to thrive. These are:
Our strategy recognises the significant progress made by the social prescribing movement since our founding in 2019, and provides clarity and focus for our work moving forward, especially the need to work collaboratively with partners and to operate at a strategic level. We also recognise the very significant shifts initiated by the Health and Care Act with the creation of Integrated Care Systems, and the move towards delegation and devolution with stronger local leadership.
Following extensive stakeholder consultation and review, various elements of our work will transform in line with our new strategy, as we look to consolidate as a fully independent and sustainable charity.
Our Thriving Communities Regional Leads programme, which focuses on support to the VCSFE sector at local level, will come to an end, and a new approach provided by a team of Social Prescribing Senior Advisors will launch in October. Their remit will focus on strategic development of social prescribing at a regional level, supporting leaders in Integrated Care Boards and Partnerships, VCSE Alliances and other key stakeholder organisations, convening local experts and shaping future policy, practice and commissioning at place. Building on the significant knowledge and maturity of social prescribing to drive up quality, consistency and address inequalities.
The team will be fully integrated with NASP staff, including our evidence and evaluation specialists, national leads for key areas (such as heritage, natural environment and physical activity) and communications support. This will enable them to offer a strategic, integrated specialist support service to regional social prescribing stakeholders. Whether they require support with economic evidence, toolkits for commissioning of Green Social Prescribing or leadership development for Link Workers; a consistent, strategic offer building on existing best practice will be available. Various networks, communities of practice and information updates will be offered at regional and national level, with a focus on developing and sharing innovation and raising the profile of exemplars.
We are proud to work closely with a number of national bodies including NHSE, NAVCA, Sport England, Historic England, Natural England, Independent Age, Arts Council England, the National Centre for Creative Health and the Money and Pensions Service. Our new model has been designed to complement their work, enabling an integrated offer at regional level, adding capacity and ensuring consistent and strategic collaboration.
Our successful Thriving Communities programme has been independently evaluated; not only was it hugely impactful to local groups and people accessing social prescribing activities, it generated important learning. We are utilising the knowledge and expertise from this programme to shape our approach to supporting the local VCFSE sector. This includes continuing our national webinar series exploring key themes relevant to VCFSE groups, continuing to showcase best practice across the country, and developing new guidance and resources for VCFSE groups as part of a ‘whole system approach’ to social prescribing. We are also creating a new Innovation Network that will be open to organisations aiming to deliver innovative approaches to social prescribing across the country.
We are also seeking to develop a new model of ‘Shared Investment Funds’ to support VCFSE groups involved in social prescribing, based in part on what we learned from the successful Thriving Communities Fund.
We recognise the importance of national policies in addressing the need for sustainable, integrated and targeted investment into local community groups and services, building on the new Integrated Care System model and focused on prevention. We are working with partners to drive this change, including piloting thematic approaches, and continuing to champion the essential role of a thriving VCSFE sector as a priority.