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Pioneering East Lancashire social prescribing scheme identified as good practice in national review

A pioneering East Lancashire CCG funded scheme to support GP referrals to community groups and services has been featured in the Institute for Health Equity’s recent report: Reducing health inequalities through new models of care. The report, authored by health inequalities guru, Sir Michael Marmot and University College London identified the East Lancashire scheme as a social prescribing scheme that demonstrates how the CCG and its partners – Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, and Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS, have helped to address health inequalities and the social determinants of ill health.

The East Lancashire social prescribing scheme has been running for four years and has invested approximately £2.5M into community schemes, groups and activities that GPs in the area can refer their patients to. 

East Lancashire CCG was innovative in delegating its budget to Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, and Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS who were given control of the budget and have managed the scheme since 2014. 

The social prescribing scheme, called ‘prescription for health’, is a tangible investment in local communities and recognises the skills, experience and knowledge that communities can bring to support patients with a range of non-medical, socially orientated support.

Social prescribing complements the medical care and treatment that GPs in East Lancashire provide.  However GP services experience exceptionally high demand, and  GPs can refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services provided by the voluntary, community and faith (VCFS) sector. These services can include everything from debt counselling, support groups and walking clubs, to community cooking classes and one-to-one peer mentoring. We knew that social prescribing was a powerful and useful means of investing in our communities and reducing demand on the NHS, but we have now also seen the practical benefits that these schemes have had in supporting independence, reducing social isolation, building confidence and self-esteem, and improving the overall health and wellbeing of people in all of our communities.

Dr Richard Robinson, Chair of the CCG said:

“As a GP in Hyndburn I have found social prescribing to be a really useful addition to the range of options I have available to me.  For some it is often better to be referred to a community activity where they can build their confidence or feel less isolated rather than receive prescription medication. Medicine and referrals to specialists all have a role to play, but what has impressed me most has been seeing people improve their health and wellbeing by being part of a group or activity.  Our communities have the power of health and wellbeing in their hands, and GPs and the CCG, along with the voluntary sector can help this happen.”

Michelle Pilling, Deputy Chair of NHS East Lancashire CCG is passionate about the power and the benefit of social prescribing.

“In Pennine Lancashire we have seen a widening of health inequalities right across our communities.  This is particularly concerning when we see life expectancy declining too. People are not living as long they are in other areas, and they struggle with many health problems.  The health service can help people with medical problems but many social or economic problems can often be best supported in the community.  To be recognised by Sir Michael Marmot in this report is really pleasing and testament to the work of the voluntary sector, our GPs and the CCG.”

 

The report by the Institute of Health Equity can be found here: http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/resources-reports/reducing-health-inequalities-through-new-models-of-care-a-resource-for-new-care-models

A report of the last year of social prescribing is available here:

https://www.bprcvs.co.uk/index.php/news-and-events/bprcvs-news/1276-2017-2018-ccg-report