What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing is designed to support people with a range of social, emotional or practical needs by focusing on improving mental health and physical well being. In practice, social prescribing provides for patients to be directed to other services outside of the GP practice, including those within the voluntary and community sector. Most schemes have an individual (social prescriber or community officer) who is knowledgeable about the availability of services, and acts as a liaison between patient and the services. The schemes involve a variety of activities. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.
Who is it available to?
Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with mild or long-term mental health problems, the elderly, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care. As the population ages and more people are living alone, social isolation and loneliness amongst older people are emerging as two of the major issues affecting health, wellbeing and independence. Therefore, recognising that health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.
Does social prescribing work?
There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and well-being outcomes. Studies have pointed to improvements in areas such as quality of life and emotional wellbeing, mental and general wellbeing, and levels of depression and anxiety. For example, a study into a social prescribing project in Bristol found improvements in anxiety levels and in feelings about general health and quality of life. In general, social prescribing schemes appear to result in high levels of satisfaction from participants and primary care professionals.
Social prescribing schemes may also lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services. A study of a scheme in Rotherham (a liaison service helping patients access support from more than 20 voluntary and community sector organisations), showed that for more than 8 in 10 patients referred to the scheme who were followed up three to four months later, there were reductions in NHS use in terms of accident and emergency (A&E) attendance, outpatient appointments and inpatient admissions. The Bristol study also showed reductions in general practice attendance rates for most people who had received the social prescription.
How do I avail of this?
As this scheme is relatively new we have collated all of the information currently available about social prescribing here in NI. We hope to add to this over time and provide you with more details on how and where you can get involved. We also recommend speaking to your GP or surgery for signposting
South Eastern Trust
Caring Communities Safe and Well http://www.setrust.hscni.net/healthyliving/
Mid and East Antrim IMPACT Agewell programme https://www.meaap.co.uk/impactagewell
Southern and Western Trust
The European funded mPower programme operating https://mpowerhealth.eu/
Belfast Connected Community Care Service
The Social Prescribing Project – This is a region wide initiative in partnership with the Healthy Living Centre Alliance. The Healthy Living Centre Alliance is a network of Healthy Living Centres (HLCs) which are community-led health improvement initiatives that engage local people and organisations to work collectively in addressing health inequalities and to improve the health of their neighbourhood, town or village. We have listed all projects below.