Daily Express

GPs 'prescribe' social schemes in bid to improve wellbeing

Daily Express logo Daily Express 23.06.2023 19:24:30 Steph Spyro - daily express Environment Editor
GPs begin social prescribing schemes

GPs have increasingly "prescribed" patients to spend time in nature or engage with local communities in a bid to improve their health.

Doctors, nurses and health practitioners have referred nearly two million people to "link workers" who assess a patient and offer non-clinical services to support their wellbeing.

One in five GP appointments are related to social rather than medical reasons, experts have estimated.

Professor Sir Sam Everington, a GP who has pioneered social prescribing, said: "It shifts the focus from what the matter is with the patient to what matters to them.

"It's very clear to us that at least 80 percent of people's health is actually to do with social determinants and that comes as a real surprise to people. What I learnt as a doctor really offers like 20 percent of what patients need. What are these other things? We broadly categorise them as employment, education, environmental factors and creative or spiritual side to people's lives."

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations.

These include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

Sir Sam told how social prescribing highlights the power of changing lifestyles which could significantly ease pressures on the struggling NHS.

He said this is what attracts the government to the approach.

In 2019, the NHS rolled out social prescribing as part of additional support available in GP practices.

Sir Sam said: "What it ensures is actually that the patients, the community and their families use all their resources to improve someone's health.

"That's really, really important - not only because it reduces pressure on the NHS - but most importantly from the patient's perspective, you get a much better outcome."

He also called for social subscribing to be expanded into schools, calling the offer "absolutely critical" to young people.

Charlotte Osborn-Forde, chief executive at The National Academy for Social Prescribing, said: "Social prescribing exists because when life gets tough, it can be hard to navigate services and support. Whether it's a local Park Run, art group, or help with debt, social prescribing can make a big difference to your life and improve your health."

Ian Haslett was referred to a therapeutic gardening project by a mental health worker at his local GP surgery.

He has described how his mood and confidence have improved since working with Trust Links, a wellbeing charity in Essex.

Ian told how he experiences agoraphobia, anxiety and an emotional disorder which means he "struggles to be around lots of people and out of the house."

Ian, 35, said: "The socialising has been really important for me. I don't socialise easily and mixing with people is one of the hardest things for me. It's been easier at Trust Links because you're around lots of like-minded people.

"I didn't go out much after leaving school due to frequent bullying. I used to have to have

someone with me to leave the house. I'd been stuck inside my house for so long. Growing up I never wanted to be trapped indoors, or working in an office, and Trust Links has given me an opportunity to be outside more.

"When I got into the horticultural course I was totally in my element. Recently, I've been inspired to get into wildlife photography from the exposure to nature.

"It has certainly given me more of an appreciation of the outdoors. I couldn't engage with the outdoors before because my mental state made it hard to get outside."

Ian is a member of the Thundersley community garden where he attends on a weekly basis.

The horticultural support worker said: "I've been on different medications, they've not made me any worse but I've not got any better either. My mood has improved and it's been increasing my confidence.

"I'm so much more positive than what I was, it's changed in the last year of engaging with Trust Links. The staff here know where I'm at and I'm getting the help I need."

It is estimated that one in five GP appointments are related to social rather than medical reasons - like loneliness, isolation and financial worries - reflecting that our health is shaped by wider issues in our lives.

Social prescribing - connecting people to practical and emotional support - has the potential to address these sorts of problems and improve our collective health and wellbeing.

This can look like different things to different people. What might work for one person, wouldn't work for another. Which is why link workers - often based in GP surgeries - play such a crucial role.

They have the time to get to know people and learn about the wider circumstances that are impacting their health. Working together, the link worker and patient then make a plan to access support, activities or resources that will help boost their health and wellbeing.

Whether people join a befriending group, an exercise class, a dementia choir or get help with complex problems with money and housing, this has the power to transform lives.

For example, there can be benefits in spending time in the natural environment for our mental health - including increased wellbeing, happiness, resilience, and reduced social isolation.

But while some people may find it easy to take part in outdoor activities, others do not.

People may not live near public green space, may struggle to afford transport, or may have a disability that makes it harder for them to go outside.

Many people simply lack confidence or feel socially isolated and worried about joining in.

That is why we have been a partner with the NHS, Government Departments and a range of organisations to test how to make 'green social prescribing' available more widely.

By connecting the health system with amazing local organisations, we can improve access to local walking schemes, community gardening projects, conservation volunteering and green gyms, among others.

In 2019, the NHS rolled out social prescribing as part of additional support available in GP practices. Since then there have been more than 1.9 million referrals to a link worker in England.

Social prescribing exists because when life gets tough, it can be hard to navigate services and support. Whether it's a local Park Run, art group, or help with debt, social prescribing can make a big difference to your life and improve your health.

vendredi 23 juin 2023 22:24:30 Categories: Daily Express

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