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NHS East Lancashire celebrates Social Prescribing on National Social Prescribing Day

A pioneering scheme that has invested over £2.5 M to support social prescribing in local communities in East Lancashire is being celebrated on National Social Prescribing Day – 14th March 2019 through the production of a series of mini-films showcasing the value and power of social prescribing.

The films can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbNYSu-9Hk5wLxRW9dqHdwQ

The East Lancashire social prescribing scheme – known locally as “Prescription for Wellbeing” is a partnership between NHS East Lancashire CCG and Hyndburn and Ribble Valley, and Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS.  

The CCG first approached the CVSs to micro-commission community projects on their behalf five years ago, with the aim of helping communities to develop innovative solutions to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

The scheme is a tangible investment in local communities, recognising the skills, experience and knowledge that communities can bring to support patients through a wide range of non-medical, socially orientated support.

With GPs in East Lancashire under increasing pressure, social prescribing complements the medical care and treatment provided.  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 sector (VCFS). These services can include everything from debt counselling, support groups and walking clubs, to community cooking classes and one-to-one peer mentoring. Social prescribing is increasingly recognised as an alternative way to reduce pressure on the NHS whilst investing in our communities.   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 local communities is significant.

In the latest report by Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS and Hyndburn and Ribble Valley CVS the investment in social prescribing:

  • Benefitted 10,931 people in East Lancashire - 4047 of these were adults, 6884 young people
  • People who received social prescribing were 4 times more optimistic about life as a result
  • They felt 3 times more useful
  • Had 55% more clearer thinking
  • Were 3 times more relaxed
  • Were 3 times more confident
  • Felt more sociable than they had been previously (twice as much)
  • Visited the GP less than previously (on average 5 times fewer appointments)
  • Were 3 times more physically active
  • Diets improved by 195%

Michelle Pilling, Deputy Chair of NHS East Lancashire CCG is passionate about the benefits of social prescribing in providing holistic care and as a way of investing in local communities:

“As one of the few Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the country to fund social prescribing schemes since we were first established in 2013 we are especially proud to have supported and invested in over 600 local community groups who are doing so much to help local people to stay healthy and well.

“People’s health can be affected by a range of social, economic and environmental factors. For example there is a clear link between poverty, poor health and early death. There is also evidence that links the amount of control people have over their lives to their health and wellbeing. Social Prescribing provides a way of connecting people to non-medical support in the community, which can include  opportunities for physical activity, learning new skills, making friends, as well as support with employment and housing. 

“It is particularly affective at addressing loneliness and isolation and helping those people with long term conditions to better manage their health. It can also offer GPs  an alternative to a drug prescription and reduce workload. In practices where GPs and their wider teams are already working closely alongside their local community groups they are reporting improved job satisfaction at a time when retention of GPs and associated healthcare workers is facing such serious challenges.”

Dr Richard Robinson, Hyndburn GP and 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.”

With the national roll out of social prescribing schemes NHS East Lancashire remains committed to the fundamental principle of investing in and growing our voluntary, community and faith sector organisations so that they remain sustainable and are able to address people’s needs in a more holistic way, tackling health inequalities and supporting people to take more control of their own health.