On Thursday 7th November, Health Exchange and Our Health Partnership (OHP) launched a new Social Prescribing programme funded by the Department of Health, Health and Wellbeing Fund. Around 40 delegates from Health Exchange, OHP, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Community Trust, the Birmingham Mental Health Trust, Birmingham and Solihull CCG, Forward Carers and UK Active attended the launch event to learn about the delivery model of the programme and its benefits to patients.
Speakers at the event included Dr Vish Ratnasuriya, Chair of Our Health Partnership, Jennifer Jones-Rigby, Chief Operations Officer at Health Exchange and Chloe and Lisa, two of the Health and Wellbeing Partners who will support patients through the programme. Attendees heard about the vision for the programme and patients over the next 3 years, benefits to the clients and GPs, the Social Prescribing concept and the delivery model of the new programme.
Social Prescribing is a way of linking patients in primary care to sources of support that tackle the psycho-social determinants of health. These can include community activities, volunteering, local groups and therapy, and are based on the patient’s personal interests and goals. They are non-medical treatments which can be used alongside existing treatments to improve a person’s health and wellbeing. Social Prescribing has several practical benefits including: reduction in anxiety and depression, improved social health and relationships, more autonomy, reduced loneliness and improved confidence and self-esteem. The incredible thing about Social Prescribing is that once a person starts to experience improvements in these areas, their physical health often starts to improve too. This helps to relieve pressure on primary and secondary NHS services and supports individuals to improve their health before they reach a crisis point.
It is important to recognise that in healthcare, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work. The Social Prescribing model acknowledges this, which is why it is so effective at improving a person’s wellbeing and re-engaging them with their community.
This is, at last, being recognised by the government who have pledged millions of pounds for social prescribing projects across the country via the Health and Wellbeing Fund. The government also committed to establishing a Social Prescribing Academy during an announcement by the Health Secretary at the ‘Social Prescribing: Coming of Age’ conference and announced an annual Social Prescribing Day starting March next year (read more here). It is encouraging to see a greater focus on more personalised care administered before a crisis point, something Health Exchange has been an advocate for since the organisation’s conception.
Our Social Prescribing Coordinator, Lorraine, said:
“It’s great to see the government investing in and promoting Social Prescribing on a national level. Our NHS is struggling under the strain of preventable illnesses and mental health issues, so anything we can do to reduce unnecessary GP appointments and A&E visits is of paramount importance.
GPs are recognising the benefits of having Health & Wellbeing Partners in their surgeries, working as part of a multi-disciplined team to provide a holistic approach to engage patients.
Our research shows that the frequent visitors to GPs are suffering from loneliness and isolation. Social Prescribing is about empowering those clients to help themselves and get involved in their community. I’m excited to be a part of this project.”
The programme will start taking referrals from GPs within Our Health Partnerships practices immediately.