Social prescription a priority in Theresa May’s loneliness strategy

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UK prime minister Theresa May has pledged to increase social prescribing by making it a key part of the first government loneliness strategy. Set to be implemented by 2023, the strategy will also see £1.8m allocated for community-based projects.

The decision to make loneliness a health priority follows on from research in 2017 by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, the legacy of the late Labour MP, who was committed to addressing the growing health problem, as well as initiatives by councils, charities and health experts.

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, 75% of GPs see between one and five patients every day who come in mainly because they are lonely. Under the new government plans, social prescription will allow GPs to refer patients to non-clinical services, including community cafés, gardening, creative activities, cooking and healthy eating, counselling, mindfulness and complementary therapies.

Theresa May believes that social prescription will improve quality of life and take pressure off the NHS. Social prescription has long been championed by the College of Medicine, whose chairman, vice presidents and other council members are amongst its leading innovators. This includes 2018 FHT Conference speakers, Dr Michael Dixon and Sir Sam Everington, who have been developing working models of social prescription for more than a decade.

We look forward to hearing more about social prescription at our 2018 FHT Conference next month, which is supported by the College of Medicine.

In addition, Westminster Forum Projects has planned a keynote seminar on the future of social prescribing in England, on 26 March 2019 – visit the Westminster Health Forum section of their website for more details and to book.


Sir Sam Everington set to speak at 2018 FHT Conference

Sam Everington.jpgWe are pleased to say that pioneering GP Sir Sam Everington will be joining us as a speaker at the 2018 FHT Conference next month.

Sir Sam Everington is a GP, chair of Tower Hamlet’s Clinical Commissioning Group, elected member of the British Medical Association’s Council, director of Community Health Partnerships, Honorary Professor of Queen Mary University of London and vice president of the College of Medicine and Queen’s Nursing Institute.

He believes that quality of life is the strongest determinant of good health and has been championing lifestyle changes, social prescription and care in the community for many years. He is part of the Bromley By Bow GP partnership, an innovative community organisation with more than 100 projects to support wider determinants of health, a subject he will discuss at the 2018 FHT Conference. For this he has developed a working model of social prescription, helping to support the community in Tower Hamlets, London, an area with high deprivation and poverty.

In addition, he co-founded the Tower Hamlets GP out of hours service and has published a number of articles on discrimination in the NHS, with Professor Aneez Esmail.

In 1999 he received an OBE for services to inner city primary care and a knighthood in 2015 for services to primary care. Sir Sam Everington was also the first medic to arrive at the scene of the 7/7 bombings in 2005.

Read more about social prescribing

About the FHT Conference

The conference will take place on Thursday 29 November at The King’s Fund in the heart of London’s West End and feature a host of talks presented by leading experts in research, education and integrated healthcare. Read more

Book your tickets here or call 023 8062 4350



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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.

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NHS England commission guide to social prescribing

Doctor and patient

NHS England has recently commissioned a guide for making sense of social prescribing.

Social prescribing is often referred to as ‘community referral’ and is the idea of making non-medical options available to healthcare professionals to help improve a patient or client’s health and wellbeing. Social prescribing is designed to address the needs of a person whose health issues do not stem from disease or injury but are the result of socioeconomic or psychosocial factors.

The guide incorporates research from a Wellcome Trust funded seed award: ‘Investigating the provision and conceptualisation of Social Prescribing approaches to health creation’.

Broken down in nine sections, the guide covers the following:

  • An introduction to social prescribing
  • What is social prescribing?
  • What do different models of social prescribing schemes look like?
  • The essential ingredients of social prescribing schemes
  • What makes a good link worker?
  • What makes for a good referral?
  • Managing risk, safeguarding and governance
  • Evaluation of social prescribing schemes
  • A checklist of considerations for setting up a social prescribing scheme

The full guide can be downloaded from the Social Prescribing Network page on the University of Westminster website.

Click here to read an article on social prescribing from the Summer 2017 issue of International Therapist.