What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing is a way of linking primary care patients with psycho-social issues, with sources of appropriate, non-medical support in the community
Suitable referrals to social prescribing initiatives are vulnerable and at risk groups such as: people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety; low income single parents; recently bereaved older people; people with long term conditions and frequent attendees in primary and secondary care
Social prescribing has been described as having the potential to improve mental health outcomes, reduce demand on statutory services, improve community wellbeing and resilience and helps to reduce social exclusion
Prescribed activities run by existing schemes have included arts and creative activities, physical activity, learning and volunteering opportunities and courses, self-care and support with practical issues such as benefits, housing, debt and employment
The evidence on the impact of social prescribing is currently limited and inconsistent. Some initiatives have shown improved outcomes for patients and potential for cost-savings (in the longer term), but few have been subject to economic analysis or the kind of rigorous evaluation which would inform commissioners
Accordingly, any new, local social prescribing initiatives should aim to add to the current evidence base and conduct transparent and thorough evaluation (addressing the questions of when, for whom and how well does the scheme work? What impact does it have? What does it cost? Is it cost-effective?)
Many of the components of social prescribing initiatives have been shown to be effective (outside of the umbrella of social prescribing schemes), and may already be offered by local voluntary, community and third sector groups. It is important to note where these activities or structures already exist, so as not to re-invent existing provision
Wirral Intelligence Service recently published a review looking at the evidence of the effectiveness of social prescribing which can be accessed here.
The Welsh NHS Confederation produced a briefing which sets out the important role that social prescribing has on the health and well-being of the population, the social prescribing initiatives already in place across Wales and the evidence that already exists which highlights the effectiveness of social prescribing. Access the report here.
Governance International provide information on co-production for better outcomes with citizens. A range of tools, training, research and peer learning from around the world to transform public services based on international good practice is all available here.
Key information sources for you to consider: