An innovative healthcare program that connects patients with non-medical, community-led projects and organizations is likely to become much more prevalent as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Social prescribing, also known as community referral, is the referral of GPs, nurses, and other primary care professionals to local community groups and activities for people with problems that cannot be resolved with medicine alone.
This measure can be particularly helpful to people who need extra support for their mental health, suffer from one or more long-term health conditions, feel lonely or isolated, or have complex social needs (for example, living in inadequate housing) that affect their well-being. .
A social prescription offers help beyond medication or referral to other healthcare professionals. For example, a loner may be tied to a community-led gardening project. Similarly, someone who is worried about being diagnosed with dementia may be referred to a dementia support group in their neighborhood. Or a person experiencing financial stress may be given details of a local initiative that can advise them.
According to Mayor of LondonAt least 20% of people visit their families for non-medical reasons. The goal of social prescribing is to reduce these non-essential doctor visits while ensuring that people receive the most appropriate support they need to maintain or improve their own mental health and well-being.
Where does the concept come from?
According to this wired According to the journal Social Prescribing, the theory stems from fundamental research by professors Sir Michael Marmot of University College London and Richard Wilkinson of the University of Nottingham. They Research He suggested that a person’s health is largely determined by social factors, such as work, environment and relationships.
Wired said the concept has been around for “several decades” in the UK, but “the cascading health outcomes of a year in isolation have fueled interest in the practice”. As the NHS continues to push its absolute capacity, “more health professionals, policy makers and patients are seeing social prescribing as part of the answer”.
What does the research say?
“There is a growing body of evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and well-being outcomes,” he said. King’s FundAn independent charity working to improve health and care in the UK.
A social prescribing program in Shropshire evaluated by University of Westminster For example, he found that between 2017 and 2019, people’s feelings of well-being and loneliness improved as a result. At a three-month follow-up, the plan’s leaders also found that GP appointments among participants dropped 40% compared to a control group.
A similar scheme in Bradford reported improvements in people’s health-related quality of life and sense of social connection. The King’s Fund has suggested that an initial analysis of a national social prescribing program could pay for itself for 18 to 24 months as NHS use declines.
NHS England Committed to refer at least 900,000 people to social prescribing services by 2023/2024, he said: “This is the largest investment in social prescribing by any national health system and legitimizes community-based activities and support alongside medical treatment as part of personalized care. . ”
He also cites a survey where 59% of GPs think social prescribing can help reduce their workload.
However, a briefing Welsh parliament A study published last month concluded that the quality of the evidence on the concept is “not robust, and the evidence is not yet fully proven that social prescribing provides cost savings relative to operating costs.”
Nursing Times journal agreed that “social prescribing intuitively has a benefit, but reviews conclude that the evidence lags behind its application.”
Who provides the social prescriptions?
Different models of social prescribing are currently practiced in the UK. The majority includes a social prescribing link worker, who may also be called a community explorer, community linker, or support broker.
First introduced by the NHS in 2019, connect staff with family doctors and other healthcare professionals to understand why a patient seeks help. The NHS then provide personal support, possibly in the form of helping the patient “participate in activities such as sports teams, cooking classes or social clubs, or attend life skills courses to improve their well-being”.
According to NHS England, there are several ways a patient can be referred from their local area to a social prescriber liaison officer, for example by the GP, pharmacy, hospital discharge team or a social worker. People can also apply on their own.
in August 2020, NHS England announced that it is forming a “growing army” of liaison workers “to combat the loneliness and isolation fueled by the coronavirus.”
How does social prescribing relate to Covid?
Link workers have been “front and center” in the NHS’s Covid-19 response, supporting vulnerable people “in everything from accessing vital medicines to relieving loneliness during lockdown”. Nikki Kanani, a London-based general practitioner and primary care medical director for the NHS.
As the UK enters the next phase of the pandemic – we need to learn to adapt to life with the virus and start processing the impact of the past 18 months – social prescribing is likely to be a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people as well. as our overstretched healthcare system.