The funding plans to allow GPs to refer more patients to social activities or other types of support to improve health and wellbeing, and to reduce demand on NHS services.
The government has announced investment plans of nearly £4.5 million to put towards social prescribing programmes that will refer patients to their local voluntary and community services, including walking groups, arts and crafts sessions or gardening activity across England.
Research suggested that social prescribing 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 found that they relied on Accident & Emergency departments less, and made fewer outpatient appointments or became inpatient admissions less often.
23 social prescribing projects in England are to benefit from a share of the funding to either extend current social prescribing schemes or develop new ones.
Social prescribing schemes include a focus on:
- Reaching out to people who may be socially isolated, such as those with mental health problems or learning difficulties
- Providing support for those affected by health inequalities, such as transgender people or people from BAME backgrounds
- Helping people with particularly complex needs who regularly access health services
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 the subsequent two years.
Care Minister Caroline Dinenage commented by saying that:
"The voluntary and community sector has such a vital role to play in working with our health system to provide the kind of support that you can’t receive at your local GP surgery or hospital.
"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."
VSNW manages the North West Social Prescribing Network. To become a member or discuss being a member please contact Jo Ward by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 07708 428096, or you can complete our registration page and sign-up online.