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14.03.16

New national network launched to promote social prescribing

A new national network will allow healthcare professionals to work together to deliver social prescribing.

The Social Prescribing Network, which will bring together healthcare professionals, voluntary and community sector professionals, commissioners, policy-makers and patients, was launched by the University of Westminster and the College of Medicine, at a parliamentary event on 9 March.

Social prescribing enables healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker who supports a patient to improve their health and wellbeing by accessing a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sectors.

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Dr Michael Dixon, co-chair of the Social Prescribing Network, and a member of NHE’s editorial board, said: “Social prescription is the ultimate resolution for patients experiencing a range of psychosocial and other problems where a medical prescription is inappropriate.

“The Social Prescribing Network launch is a step towards educating a wider audience of policy makers, commissioners, healthcare professionals and patients of the enormous benefits that social prescribing can bring.”

Examples of current Social Prescribing projects include ‘Creative Alternatives’ in Sefton, Merseyside, which engages people with mental health issues in creative activities that promote socialising and skills development, and ‘Focussed Care’ in Oldham, Greater Manchester, which provides specialist professional support to patients in economically challenged areas.

Dr Marie Polley, co-chair of the Social Prescribing Network, chair of British Society for Integrated Oncology and senior lecturer in Health Sciences and Research at the University of Westminster, said: “The cost of supporting people with long term conditions and wider social welfare needs is unsustainable using the current models of care. This fails to provide the personalised support and advice that patients need to empower them to take responsibility for their own health.”

Increasing care costs have contributed to the £2.3bn NHS deficit.

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The Social Prescribing Network aims to promote social prescribing as a method for the healthcare system to access pragmatic solutions to meet the growing needs of people living with long-term physical and mental health conditions when medication is not always appropriate or necessary, carry out collaborative research and evaluation and produce recommendations which will be shared for discussion with NHS officials, members of parliament and voluntary organisations.

To read the latest Social Prescribing Network Conference report, go here. Dr Polley will be writing for us in the Mar/Apr edition of NHE.

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