Social prescribing – linking patients with support

by Hemant Patel FRPharms, English Pharmacy Board member

Today is Social Prescribing Day. So, what is social prescribing?

Social prescribing enables GPs, pharmacists, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services via a link worker.

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

Link workers give people time and focus on what matters to the person, and as part of their care, connect people to community groups and agencies for practical and emotional support.  With the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan and personalised care being marked as a priority, the NHS has promised to support at least 900,000 people to benefit from social prescribing by 2023. Pharmacists have a role to play here.

Social, economic and environmental factors are part of the wider determinants which impact on people’s health. Such factors are influenced by the local, national and international distribution of power and resources which shape the conditions of daily life. They determine the extent to which different individuals have the physical, social and personal resources to identify and achieve goals, meet their needs and deal with changes to their circumstances.

The Marmot review, published in 2010, raised the profile of wider determinants of health by emphasising the strong and persistent link between social inequalities and disparities in health outcomes. Variation in the experience of wider determinants (i.e. social inequalities) is considered the fundamental cause of health outcomes, and as such health inequalities are likely to persist through changes in disease patterns and behavioural risks so long as social inequalities persist.

The King’s Fund says, ‘Recognising that 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.’

Many health conditions, for example, hypertension and diabetes, are reversible. This means that if lifestyle changes are adopted the condition is reversible and no requires medicines. Deprescribing, the planned process of reducing or stopping medicines that may no longer be of benefit, or may be causing harm, aims to improve quality of life. Deprescribing and social prescribing can work side by side to help people regain health and become less dependent on medicines and enjoy life better – a great aim for all our patients.

 

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