The government is to invest almost £4.5 million in social prescribing programmes to refer patients to local voluntary and community services such as walking clubs, gardening or arts activities.
The aim of social prescribing is to improve patients’ quality of life, health and wellbeing by recognising that health is not just physical but is affected by a range of social, economic and environmental factors.
The funding will allow GPs to refer more patients to social activities and other types of support to improve health and wellbeing and reduce demand on NHS services.
- A total of 23 social prescribing projects in England will receive a share of the funding to extend existing social prescribing schemes or establish new ones.
Evidence shows that the social prescribing approach can reduce demand on NHS services. A UK study found that after three to four months, 80% of patients referred to a social prescribing scheme had reduced their use of A&E, outpatient appointments and inpatient admissions.
The schemes include a focus on:
- reaching out to people who may be socially isolated, for example because of mental health problems or learning difficulties
- providing support for those impacted by health inequalities, such as transgender people or people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds
- helping people with particularly complex needs who regularly access health services.
Examples of the schemes receiving funding include:
- a new street games scheme across Sheffield, Southampton, Luton, and Brighton and Hove, focusing on socially excluded young people aged five to 25
- a Dudley Council project to expand support for people with a very high dependency on A&E.
The funding will come from the Health and Wellbeing Fund, part of a programme of government investment in the voluntary sector. The projects will be fully funded through the scheme in their first year. Additional joint funding from local commissioners will be agreed for a further subsequent two years.
Care Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “This new funding will mean that many more people receive support that looks at their needs holistically, enabling them to live happier, more independent lives. I look forward to seeing these projects put their plans into action and provide support to hundreds of thousands more people.”