Social prescribing is a way of linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community. It provides GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and wellbeing. Social prescribing enables a GP or other healthcare professional to refer the patient to an organised scheme which usually involves link workers or navigators taking time to understand what the patients’ needs and goals are, helping them to access appropriate services. Those services are most commonly provided by local voluntary organisations.
There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes. Studies have pointed to improvements to quality of life and emotional wellbeing, mental and general wellbeing, and levels of depression and anxiety (Kimberlee, 2013). Social prescribing schemes may also lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services. According to NHS England, social prescribing can impact on GP consultation rates, A&E attendance, hospital stays, medication use, and social care.
The Mayor of London has made increasing access to social prescribing a key component of his statutory Health Inequalities Strategy. One of the five key ambitions in the strategy is, by 2028, ‘to support more Londoners in vulnerable or deprived communities to benefit from social prescribing’. As a step towards recognising this ambition, the Mayor is currently developing a social prescribing vision for London.
Scope of the inquiry
The London Assembly Health Committee has launched an investigation into social prescribing in London. The Committee is looking into the current provision of social prescribing in London, and what can be done to boost access to and uptake of social prescribing across the capital.
The Committee has invited organisations and individuals to submit views and information on the investigation, to help inform their work and influence their recommendations. Key questions they are seeking to address include:
- What types of issues/conditions can be more effectively tackled through social prescribing?
- Can the community and voluntary sector cope with increased social prescribing?
- Do people understand and have confidence in social prescribing?
- What benefits would increasing social prescribing have for London?
- How acceptable is social prescribing to clinicians?
- What are the barriers to increasing social prescribing uptake across London?
- Which particular groups could benefit most from social prescribing?
- What examples of innovative social prescribing are there in London?
- Are there any downsides/barriers to boosting social prescribing in London?
- What role can the Mayor play in supporting increased social prescribing in London?
- Who else needs to be involved?
More information can be found on the london assembly website.