What is Social Prescribing
It is thought that up to one in five GP appointments is about a wider issue than just health. While GPs are of course experts in assessing and treating a huge range of medical issues, they are not always best placed to know where people can find support for non-clinical matters.
Social Prescribing fills that gap. It is about helping people with the non-medical issues that impact their general health and wellbeing.
What form this takes depends on the specific needs of each person, and a big positive is that Social Prescribers (sometimes also called Link Workers) have the time to fully understand what matters most to each person, and how to help them achieve what they want.
Most often, this will involve putting together a plan that supports and empowers people to be able to make changes for themselves.
It may be that the person is having problems with housing, debt or struggling to find work. A Social Prescriber may then find local organisations, and create a link between the patient and the people that can help.
If the person is frail or housebound, then finding support packages or help to source the right equipment or aids may be the most advantageous.
In cases where loneliness or isolation is the issue, then the Social Prescriber can look through their big book of community contacts to find local groups that match the individual’s interest and introduce them to each other.
The Benefits of Social Prescribing
For patients, they have someone who has the time, the connections and the expertise to understand their problems and work with them in a way that suits the individual. The regular check-ins and reviews reinforce that relationship, making it easier for the patient to move outside their comfort zone.
For GP practices, they have an excellent resource they can refer people to, which also has the benefit of reducing the demand for appointments with GPs.
For the wider NHS, there is also a benefit. There is clear evidence that social determinants like stress, money problems, housing, loneliness and others can negatively impact people’s health, making it more likely they will be ill, or less likely to recover quickly.
These early, proactive interventions help to keep people healthy and independent, reducing the need for avoidable hospital admissions or larger interventions later on.
Social Prescribing in General Practice
Social Prescribers, like many Primary Care Network staff, are embedded within our seven GP practices
In Gateshead Outer West, our Social Prescribing service is provided by Edbert’s House, a community charity based in Gateshead.
Any member of staff in a GP practice can refer you to a Social Prescriber. You can find out more about our Social Prescribers and meet the team on the Our People section.