What are the benefits of social prescribing?

What are the benefits of social prescribing?

Social Prescribing is on course to revolutionise the Primary Care landscape.

And today, here at Practice Unbound, we announced plans for our upcoming Social Prescribing blended learning programme.

Now Alison Powell from our Wales division talks about some of the benefits of social prescribing for the population.

A brief history of Social Prescribing

Plans for a ‘National Academy for Social Prescribing’ were announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in November 2018 and NHS England will fund 1,000 social prescribing workers by April 2021.

Welsh Governments ‘A Healthier Wales: our plan for Health and Social Care’ (Oct. 2018) is predicated on the basis of wellbeing and taking a holistic approach to health and integrated public and third sector services. In Scotland, the Self-Management and Social Prescribing Advisory group was established in April 2014 with one of its aims being awareness-raising.

But, what is it, what are the benefits and what are the barriers to realising these?

It’s all in a name

The terminology can be confusing, with social prescribing sometimes being used interchangeably with community referral, active signposting, community development, but at its’ heart it is about, “…people’s 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.” *

Proof in the pudding….

Taking control can, in itself, lead to demonstrable improvements. However, in assessing the overall benefits of social prescribing, most current research is anecdotal and qualitative. There is also complexity in comparing different types of referrals, interventions and activities, for example a cookery class for someone with heart disease; an art class for someone with depression and a befriending scheme to tackle loneliness.


Use it to make most use of it….

There is added difficulty in ensuring that the social prescription is taken up. As Nurse Katie Wright of The Practice of Health within Cardiff & Vale University Health Board said about their longstanding ‘Exercise on Referral’ scheme, “If people use it, it works well.”

So what’s the plan….

It seems essential that the benefits are articulated to encourage those with a social prescription to use it, particularly because those that are most socially excluded or in extreme poverty, often have the worst health, whilst being least likely to access services and, “The extent to which we have control over our lives, have good social connections and live in healthy, safe neighbourhoods are all important influences on health.” **

As professionals in primary care and with our colleagues across the public, community and voluntary sector, many of us have a gut instinct and a belief that social prescribing can have many benefits from:-

  • empowering the individual;
  • connecting them to their community;
  • promoting well-being;
  • improving mental, emotional and physical health and
  • freeing up GP time to focus on other areas of ill health.

But the task for all of us now is to effectively baseline, monitor, evaluate and then articulate this so that all can see, feel and crucially, evidence the benefits.

*From ‘Social Prescribing: Applying All Our Health”, Public Health England, (5th March 2019). Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0


** From ‘Social Prescribing: Applying All Our Health”, Public Health England, (5th March 2019). Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

Want to learn how we can help your practice with Social Prescribing?

Take a look at our new programme to get your Social Prescribing plans off the ground.

Celebrating Nutrition and Hydration Week for all round health

Celebrating Nutrition and Hydration Week for all round health

Great pleasure can come from indulging in our favourite foods, whether with friends, family or alone.

But what of those for whom food is less about joy and more about struggle; where accessing food and drink can be difficult and where every day is a battle to ensure you are fuelling your body with what it needs to survive, let alone, thrive.

Highlighting, promoting and celebrating nutrition

Nutrition and Hydration Week is an annual event which this year is being held 11th – 17th March 2019. It aims to highlight, promote and celebrate the strides forward in how nutrition is provided, locally, nationally and globally. It is focused on bringing people together, across the Health and Social Care sectors, around the World, to promote and show the value of good nutrition for health and well-being.

From Bedford to Bridgnorth and from Southampton to Salford, social media has been bustling with activity this week showcasing ‘Global Tea Party’s’, ‘Thrilling Thursdays’, where people from all over the world are encouraged to try something new; to showing the importance of good hydration and nutrition for breastfeeding Mums.

10 key characteristics of good nutrition and hydration care

NHS England has 10 ‘Key characteristics of good nutrition and hydration care’. Resonating loud and clear within these is a call to collaborate, to work across multi-disciplinary teams and crucially, with the service user or patient, to ensure hydration and nutrition is integrated to health and well-being and not seen as a ‘nice to have’ add-on.

A survey in 2008 by The British Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition found that almost a third of people residing in care homes and those over 65 in hospital, were malnourished. Work has been undertaken since then to begin to address this, but the need for better education and identification of those at risk of malnutrition outside of residential settings has also been identified.

This can serve to both prevent admissions and lead to earlier discharges. NHS England, NHS Wales and NHS Scotland, have all published various pathways and plans, but why are nutrition and hydration so important? We know it has a role in:

  • Preventing malnutrition and associated health implications
  • Preventing obesity and the health risks attached to that
  • Affecting many areas of mental and physical ill health and disease
  • Reducing the financial cost to Health and Social Care provision

Nutrition for wellbeing

But above all, good, safe, accessible, affordable nutrition and hydration, can all contribute to your well-being, self-care, enjoyment of life and to making you feel energised. It also has a role in Social Prescribing. It is therefore beholden on all of those across the Health and Care sector, to use every contact with a service user or patient, to identify issues and promote the role of food and drink, to overall health.

As Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”.

Want to learn how we can help your practice with Social Prescribing?

Take a look at our new programme to get your Social Prescribing plans off the ground.