Skip to main content

Making sense of Social Prescribing

Social prescribing shares the values that underpin the wider Personalisation movement in health and social care that have paved the way for social prescribing as we see it today.

Many people in the UK are in situations that have a detrimental effect on their health. The Marmot Review provided comprehensive analysis on the causes and consequences of health inequalities in England. Factors contributing to health inequalities can include financial, educational, poor housing, low self-esteem, isolation, relationship difficulties, and physical and mental health problems. There are also more people who are living longer and struggling to cope and adapt to living with Long Term Conditions which can’t be addressed by a clinical consultation.

Almost without exception, people want to improve their situation, particularly those with complex needs. These changes can seem impossible to navigate or achieve without sustained support and the motivation needed to make a positive change. Without support, negative consequences can build up, such as depression, anxiety and social isolation.

A GP can quickly work out that the traditional options might have only a limited impact if, for example, poor housing is a factor in a persons emotions; finance and employment concerns also have an adverse impact. It has been estimated that around 20% of patients consult their GP for what is primarily a social problem. In fact the Low Commission reported that 15% of GP visits were for social welfare advice.

As well as facilitating the use of non-clinical support for people, it also leads to NHS health care professionals developing wider relationships with their communities and the third sector, and vice-versa.

Social prescribing is an opportunity to implement a sustained structural change to how a person moves between professional sectors and into their community. To fully address the social determinants of health, social prescribing schemes view a person not as a ‘condition’ or disability, but quite simply as a person.