At its very simplest, social prescribing is about recognising that non-medical, social factors can have as much of an impact on our health and wellbeing as medications can.  A Social Prescriber takes time to get to know someone and find out what sort of activities they might be interested in, and what services they might need, and then “signposts” them to those services by giving them information about them, or by referring them to services (with their consent).
A social prescriber provides personalised holistic care, asking “What matters to you?” rather than “What is the matter with you?”.  Social prescribers want to understand how someone’s health affects them, rather than what their diagnosis is – in fact we see our lack of medical knowledge as our strength because it allows us to truly see the client as the expert in their own health.  Through social prescribing and health coaching we work to empower clients to take control of, and responsibility for, their own health and wellbeing by understanding their goals, motivations and barriers.  We use a strengths based approach to help clients focus on the positive things in their lives rather than the negatives.
A simple example of a social prescription would be someone who has just been diagnosed with a condition which is exacerbated by their weight.  Their doctor has given them the medication they need, perhaps referred them to a specialist, and also refers them to the social prescriber to help them find a suitable exercise class or weight loss support group – or something like the Wholelife programme.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of GP Practices who work closely together.  As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, PCNs have been given funding to recruit Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLWs).  The initial target was to recruit 1000 SPLWs by March 2021, but this target has already been surpassed, showing that GPs are recognising the benefits of this work.  Extra funding was put in place during the pandemic to support even more people through the loneliness and isolation caused by lockdown.  Read more about this here.
In Teignmouth and Dawlish, the SPLW is Becki White, who is now being joined by Michelle Whiffin so that they can support even more local people to access the support and activities they need.  At Volunteering in Health, we work closely with the SPLWs as they refer people to us who need more than signposting information.  They act as an important link between the PCN and ourselves.  If you would like to meet with a Social Prescriber, just ring your GP Surgery to make an appointment.
The SPLWs refer people to us who need home help, transport, sitting, carer support, dementia support, are coming to the end of their life, or those who have identified services or activities they would like to access but have barriers such as confidence getting in the way.
The third annual International Social Prescribing Conference is taking place this Thursday the 4th and Friday 5th of March; including two presentations about research which included Volunteering in Health.