Shining a light on social prescribing – a work in progress

4 March 2022

Social prescribing is not a new concept and is becoming increasingly important, especially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic’s changes to lives. Sometimes referred to as community referral or introduction, social prescribing is when GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals introduce people to a range of local, non-clinical services, often run by local community organisations or charities. This helps people to access socially-orientated opportunities enabling more control over health issues, by managing their needs in a way that suits them through a range of activities such as local craft making, walking groups, food growing projects, local support groups for people with chronic conditions or volunteering. This increased social connection often means that people’s health needs retreat, sometimes disappearing altogether – endorsing the pivotal role of social connection to our health outcomes.

For me, social prescribing is very much a work in progress and we’ve yet to find a way of resourcing it in an equitable way to realise the true power of communities and the voluntary sector.

There’s some awesome work being undertaken by voluntary sector and NHS colleagues to help people to reconnect socially, become more physically active where they live, and discover new friends and activities. But more work is needed to ensure that local charities and community groups are best prepared to respond to and receive community referrals from the local health and social care system, and have the capacity and investment to do so.

Here in North Yorkshire, Community First Yorkshire is planning to host a number of place based conversations to explore how the local sector can meet up with primary care colleagues to create partnerships to address this from the ground up, while recognising that we also need to connect to national partnerships to encourage the NHS England to invest equitably in voluntary sector social prescribing provision too.

In North Yorkshire, there are some brilliant social prescribing type initiatives in places like Whitby where CAVCA hold the local social prescribing contract and are working collaboratively with primary colleagues, through to Knaresborough where Knaresborough Connectors have been making a difference throughout the pandemic and continue to do so. Another great summary of what communities achieved during the pandemic in Harrogate and Rural District is this report, which showcases how VCSE organisations contribute to positive health and social care outcomes, in particular during the first twelve weeks of the Covid 19 crisis.

Taking place on 10 March, Social Prescribing Day is a great opportunity to celebrate social prescribing, recognise local community groups and projects and the impact they have on people and communities. Please join us on Twitter and Facebook and share your experiences of social prescribing in North Yorkshire, particularly where you have worked well with primary care colleagues and what you have learned that could be helpful to others too, using the hashtag #SocialPrescribingDay.

Mark Hopley, VCSE Health Partnership Development Manager