Social prescribing – a new route to wellbeing

This year, a new route to better health and wellbeing will be available to Skelmersdale residents.  From April onwards, a local ‘Social prescribing’ service is being introduced as a pilot project by West Lancs CCG after being developed with great success in other areas of UK.

Over the last decade, there has been increasing awareness that a person’s health and wellbeing is influenced by a wide range of factors.  Latest evidence estimates that as little as 10% of our health and wellbeing is managed by the NHS. Other factors such as jobs, housing, environment, family and community connections all play a stronger role in someone’s health. The image below shows the factors that can impact upon our health:

Infographic_What_Makes_Us_Healthy

Changes in these factors can often have an even greater impact on someone’s wellbeing than medical intervention by a doctor. However when people are not feeling their best, most still call at their GP as a first point of call for help with issues that are commonly beyond what can be treated with medicine.

From April 1st, a Skelmersdale resident can be referred by their GP to the Social Prescribing service.  A social prescriber will then work with them on a one to one basis to identify the non-medical issues affecting their health and look at the range of services that could help.  They will work in partnership with the patient to identify which would be the best service, help them connect with it, then stay alongside the person on their journey to improved wellbeing – ensuring feedback is given to the referring GP as to how the person is progressing.

According to the Five Ways to Wellbeing, connecting with the people around us, being active, learning and getting involved in new things all help to improve wellbeing.  Social Prescribing schemes can connect the individual with a variety of activities, most of which are already in existence in the community. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

Dr Rakesh Jaidka from Skelmersdale Family Practice in Digmoor has been one of the local doctors involved in setting up the Social Prescribing pilot in Skelmersdale, and is the clinical lead for the service.  He says, ‘Social prescribing is good news for our patients.  It will give them direct access to the widest range of services that can help improve their health.  As doctors we have long known that there is a limit to how far we can change a person’s health without addressing the other factors that influence it.  We have also known that there is an impressive range of services and activities run by the local voluntary sector that could have massive health benefits for our patients.   The Social Prescribing service allows us to join it all together. In order to see improvements in people’s quality of life, we have to connect people into the community around them through a ‘social prescription’ for activities and services that will be of more benefit to them than medicines.

 ‘Social prescribing will help us address the root causes of people’s ill health.  It will mean we can signpost our patient to one person who can spend time with them when we get to the end of what we can do medically.  We regularly see patients with multiple health conditions or medically unexplained symptoms who will greatly benefit from this.  It will also help us to intervene early with conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure and heart health.’

For more information about the Social Prescribing project in Skelmersdale, contact: Jacqui Sutton on 01695-733737 or email Jacqui@wlcvs.org.

For more information on how these wider factors that affect our health, do have a look at the Health Foundation’s ongoing series of blog posts:

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