Social Prescribing is a service for GPs, nurses and other healthcare professionals to help improve patients’ health and wellbeing, specifically those who do not need a medical intervention, by referring them to access non-clinical services and support.
Often, in deprived areas, patients visit their GP for reasons other than clinical problems, as they might not know where to access support for wider social issues such as debt advice or housing problems. These determinants can have a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing. The Social Prescribing service offers direct support to access ‘social prescription’ helping to improve residents’ overall health and wellbeing.
Since October 2016, the GP Care Group has run the Tower Hamlets Social Prescribing service with funding from our local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Eight Social Prescribers deliver the service across Tower Hamlet’s eight GP Networks. Each GP practice has a named Social Prescriber located out of the GP practices within their assigned Network. This means that they are familiar with the GP Practices within their clinical networks, important as the majority of their referrals come from Primary Care.
Since the launch of the service, both clinicians and patients across Tower Hamlets have reported that the service fills an important gap in the local health and care system by addressing patients’ social determinants of health and increasing the awareness of Voluntary Care services available in the borough.
The high number of onward referrals and signposts to a large range of organisations (about 400) in the borough highlights the breadth of services available to primary care users through social prescribing.
Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCaW), a validated assessment tool, recently completed an analysis of the social prescribing service (August 2018).
Top five concerns:
Weight Management 24%
Social Isolation 16%
Benefits 14 %
Service users are positive about the service and cite being able to talk to someone and voice concerns, the time given by Social Prescribers, the support services available in the community and the Social Prescribers themselves as aspects of the service they value.
The focus is now on how to align support with other community connector services such as Community Navigators and Care Navigator services to help improve pathways for local residents.
By February 2019, there had been more than 9,000 referrals to about 400 services in the borough.
Evidence from the local programme has shown a demonstrable shift in demand through a 12.3% reduction in GP appointments between the six months before and six months after patients’ appointments with a Social Prescriber (418 fewer appointments in a cohort of 890 patients who had seen a Social Prescriber).
Do you want to learn more? Join a dedicated conversation to social prescribing on Twitter, every Wednesday, 8-9pm GMT. We currently have 600 followers that consist of CCGs, Clinical Leads for Social Prescribing, VCSEs, Housing Associations and Local Authorities - discussing key themes, news andtopics around social prescribing. The weekly @SocialPresHour will be hosted by a range of thought leaders throughout 2018.