Whilst medical interventions are of course necessary to treat specific conditions or health problems, the importance of strong social networks, access to friends, family and support, and an active social life should not be underestimated. Evidence shows for instance that people who have a strong network of social support means they are more likely to take prescribed medicines, and that exercise reduces the likelihood of people recovering from depression. Such discoveries have led to a growing interest in what’s known as ‘social prescriptions.’ Social prescribing is defined as a means of enabling primary care services to refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sector.
Mind in Bexley have been working with GPs in the Clocktower locality over the past 12 months to identify non-medical opportunities or interventions that will help some of their patients adopt healthier lifestyles or improve wider social aspects of their lives. Working with an array of voluntary sector agencies, Mind have referred individuals to interventions which support the development of a more community-based, preventive health care model in order to promote better patient outcomes.
Over 140 individuals have been referred into the scheme and we are currently undertaking a comprehensive evaluation to explore the impact on individual subjective wellbeing. We are also looking at the impact of Social Prescribing on A&E attendances, admissions (non-elective), outpatient appointments, urgent care centre activity and primary care appointments. The evaluation should be completed by June 2016.