New UK health secretary supports plans to increase social prescription

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On Friday Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, addressed an audience in Manchester at NHS Expo, supporting plans to dramatically increase social prescription as ‘growing evidence’ suggests that encouraging patients to lead sociable, healthier lives could relieve pressure on the NHS.

Social prescribing – sometimes referred to as community referral – enables primary care professionals to refer people to local, non-clinical services with the aim of improving their health and wellbeing. These non-clinical services can include education and learning, gardening, creative activities, cooking and healthy eating, counselling, mindfulness and complementary therapies.

Dr Michael Dixon, founder of the College of Medicine and a speaker at this year’s FHT Conference in November, welcomes the health secretary’s comments, saying they are a sign that social prescribing is now moving into the mainstream.

Dr Dixon said, ‘For many years, the conventional medical establishment regarded social prescription as something peripheral if not irrelevant. It is remarkable today to see social prescription becoming mainstream and being seen as important part of future health and care as well one of the keys to NHS sustainability.

‘The College of Medicine has been championing social prescription with many of its members and members of council being leading innovators. Dr James Fleming in Burnley created ‘Green Dreams’, while Sir Sam Everington (Vice President, College of Medicine and GP at the Bromley-by-Bow partnership) and I (Senior Partner, Culm Valley Integrated Centre for Health) have been working together for over ten years to develop the concept of working models of social prescription in both practices.’

Social prescription began as a national movement following a meeting arranged by the College of Medicine and University of Westminster in London in January 2016. The National Social Prescribing Network started with 100 people in January 2016 and now has over 2,000 members.

The network leads thinking and research on social prescription nationally and internationally and works closely with NHS England on the implementation of social prescribing in England.

Dr Michael Dixon will be a speaker at the FHT Conference on Thursday 29 November at the King’s Fund in London. In his talk, Dr Dixon will provide an overview of the current health and social care landscape, and discuss the different challenges and opportunities this presents for the successful integration of complementary therapies into mainstream care.

Read more about  social prescribing

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