Social prescribing is a non-medical approach to dealing with health issues. It is increasingly recognised that physical and social environments have a significant impact on people’s lives, and often the best prescriptions for patients from GPs are non-clinical ones. These often take the form of GPs referring patients to voluntary and community sector-operated schemes, which are usually funded by Clinical Commissioning Groups and other healthcare providers.
The National Social Prescribing Network
The National Social Prescribing Network was launched in 2016, following a conference which brought together practitioners and organisations to share the expertise and examples of social prescribing in action at a local level. This national network includes health professionals, researchers, academics, social prescribing practitioners, representatives from the community and voluntary sector, commissioners and funders, patients and citizens.
Over the last two years, members of the network have been working together to share knowledge and best practice to support social prescribing at both a national and local level, and to inform good quality research and evaluation. The network has also started developing a regional infrastructure over the last 18 months. As a result, NHS England are now supporting the development of social prescribing networks at a regional level – including here in the North West.
Developing a regional network for the North West
Social prescribing presents a unique and exciting opportunity to bring people and organisations together :
- to drive wellbeing, by looking at what helps people to flourish rather than concentrating on approaches which fix people when they become unwell
- to break with traditional policy silos and deficit based approaches
- to introduce meaningful cross sector thinking because thriving communities are about than just health and care
- to develop a concerted effort to respond to the wider issues that determine health than medical causes alone
- to reduce avoidable health inequalities and injustice.
The ambition is to develop a ‘more than medicine approach’. By bringing together regional commissioners, the voluntary and community sector, and public and private sector agencies the network aims to embed social prescribing as part of an everyday offer in the North West. But also for social prescribing to be viewed within the health and care system as a valuable and effective pathway to treat patient, alongside the more traditional medical treatment and support that is offered already.
To do this we need to work together. Over the next few months we will be developing a forum for engagement and information sharing for anyone and everyone with an interest in delivering a social prescribing agenda for the North West.
NHS England have launched a survey to find out about all the current social prescribing schemes that are in action across Clinical Commissioning Groups. We will be canvassing for opinion on the needs and wants of the broader regional social prescribing infrastructure. As a first step we will be producing a social prescribing dictionary to support conversation and increase understanding, alongside a network driven wider information exchange.
Get in touch
The regional network will be hosted by VSNW and co-chaired by Jo Ward and Warren Escadale. If you would like to get in touch with any questions or suggestions contact Jo