Co-chair of the Social Prescribing Network, Dr Marie Polley, spoke on BBC Countryfile on Sunday 10 January about the benefits of social prescribing and how link workers use ‘green prescribing’.
Marie said, ‘Social prescribing is a way of really easing the pressure off the NHS. Around 20% of people will visit a GP when their need is not directly medical, they don’t necessarily need a pharmaceutical drug prescribed, but they do need support. In those cases, the GP will encourage the person to see a link worker – I call them ‘bringers of hope’ because they will sit with the person for about an hour to gently unpack the complex situation that might be happening.
‘Connecting people with nature is something we call green prescribing. People might say to their link worker, “I really like gardening” or “I really like being in nature” and they can be connected up with local conservation projects. The key thing is that people are with others who have shared interests, so they naturally make connections.
In the episode, Marie is filmed walking in the woods with presenter Anita Rani. Marie asks Anita, ‘Can you smell the woods?… You always know you’re in woods because you can smell them and that’s because the trees and the plants are giving off volatile chemicals. Lots of research studies have shown that they’re beneficial for people with asthma and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), they can be anti-inflammatory, so by walking in the woods you are getting a dose of nature.’
By 2023 it’s hoped that at least 900,000 people in the UK will be referred to social prescribing schemes, cutting health service usage by up to 20% which long-term could save the NHS billions.