Find out what is Social Prescribing Day and 5 ways to collaboratively support communities in their long-term health and wellbeing.
You’ll have started to see the buzz on social media on ‘Social Prescribing Day’ this week everyone talks about their plans for Social Prescribing Day on Thursday 10th March 2022, the 3rd year in a row that has been dedicated to all things social prescribing. It’s always been a key date in the Elemental calendar and we have lots planned so key an eye out on social media!
We have watched social prescribing evolve over the past 10 years, starting with its roots deeply entwined in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector decades ago, to the NHS wrapping its arms around and embracing social prescribing, to the here and now where social prescribing is playing a major role in community resilience and recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
Over 10 years ago, champions in Primary Care such as Marie Anne Hassam, Jessica Hollingsworth, Sam Everington, Mohan Sekeram, and Ollie Hart led the way and empowered their peers and their patients, colleagues and policy-makers to understand how the social prescribing model of care was positively impacting on an individual’s quality of life and the difference it makes to reducing the demand on NHS services.
More recently, we are seeing that the social prescribing model of care has been adopted and adapted within local authorities, education, family support and even within in-prison settings, enabling families, students and people in prison to have a say on their health and wellbeing and how they access and engage in programmes and services within their communities.
Given the growing evidence of the impact that social prescribing has on community health and wellbeing, and the knowledge that this approach works, will 2022 be a turning point in how social prescribing is resourced?
As social prescribing continues to grow and become more accessible, it has proven itself but it’s full potential feels like it is yet to be realised, recognised and properly rewarded and resourced.
Here is what I believe needs to happen in 2022 to future proof social prescribing so that it can be more accessible by those who need it, properly resourced for those delivering it directly and indirectly and to extend its reach within and beyond primary care.
- Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLW) are under pressure to demonstrate the uptake of social prescribing whilst delivering commissioned social prescribing services. As much as a third of their time, if not more can be spent on forming and maintaining partnerships with partners, presenting outcomes and impacts to different agencies and focusing on recruitment and training. Individuals referred to social prescribing with more complex cases require more time and support from SPLWs and other Front Line Workers. For many, this is time that is not fully recorded, recognised or valued by Commissioners. This work is consistently happening throughout programmes and needs to be properly funded and acknowledged in the design and commissioning of social prescribing. SPLWs need access to escalation pathways to support more complex cases as the longer term impact of COVID is recognised. It is proven that SPLWs benefit from access to digital tools that enhance programme delivery, standardise processes and record the additional work that goes into maintaining successful programme outcomes and impacts. By commissioning digital tools that integrate with primary care, social care and mental health care systems, Commissioners will be able to fully appreciate and appropriately resource the value that social prescribing teams and community partners bring.
- Whilst GP referrals have been one of the main referral routes into social prescribing, we’re seeing more people being referred by Social Workers, College Tutors, Hospital Discharge Teams and Job Centre staff. One of our customers has 86 different referral sources to their social prescribing programme. Imagine living in that community where there is a collective of people who are trained, have the digital referral technology that updates them on the outcome of their referral and have co-designed referral pathways to introduce some of the most marginalised communities to social prescribing. Commissioners see this as an indicator to show that people who are hardly reached or hardly heard are getting the support they often need within their own community. Primary Care is an important route into social prescribing but not the only route. To reach those most in need, we need to provide a safe and secure mechanism to enable referrals to be made and also received by SPLW from multiple sources and for follow up information to be shared about the uptake and impact of the referral made.
- Self referral is proving to be one of the most popular referral sources with more people self-referring into the local social prescribing infrastructure and into community services and assets. It is a shining example of personalised and integrated care at its best when someone can make a self referral to social prescribing and receive a call from a SPLW to provide access to the support needed. As self referral increases then so will the capacity of teams delivering social prescribing. Pathways to social prescribing need to include the ability for people to self refer through to SPLWs and to community services and assets should they need to. There needs to be sufficient numbers of social prescribing teams available that are properly resourced and having the ability to share, monitor and report on case loads to cater for the increase in referrals to social prescribing via self referrals.
- The most innovative and forward-thinking regions want to integrate health, social care and other systems to connect with social prescribing. One system can not provide all the functionality that is needed to halt avoidable health inequalities which is why social prescribing technology providers like Elemental have invested over £1m into social prescribing R&D (research and development) and will be further investing in integration with even more system providers. Commissioners need to make sure to invest time in understanding the citizen journey, between agencies and where the gaps are so that you know that the integration you need is person led and not system led. If referrals are being made to social prescribing from Adult Social Care and Mental Health teams then it is vitally important that the teams receiving those referrals are appropriately trained and resources.
- And finally, social prescribing is written into strategies across the UK and Ireland often despite no clear, core funding to support the delivery and impact measurement and the important role of thousands of community based interventions, programmes and support services providers. There needs to be core funding for social prescribing, for community partners to receive referrals from SPLWs and a specific budget for digital to support and enable social prescribing to be established, adopted and scaled. Elemental will continue to invest in social prescribing, giving SPLWs and stakeholders in community health and wellbeing and communities the tools needed.
See our 5 step plan for starting your social prescribing programme and join us for our next Elemental Open Lounge on Wednesday 30th March and find out how we can help. Register here.
About the author
Jennifer Neff – Managing Director – Elemental Software
Jennifer is passionate to end avoidable health inequalities. She set up Elemental Software in 2013 with Leeann Monk Ozgul to connect people, build communities and improve lives. The pair created the Elemental platform designed to establish, scale, and measure the uptake and impact of the social prescribing model of care, a more than medicine approach to health and social care.
Over 800 social prescribing hubs use Elemental across England, Scotland, Wales and the Island of Ireland. As the leading digital social prescribing software provider in the UK, Elemental is bridging the gap between health, housing, the VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) sector, education, local government, and prison services. With a range of digital solutions designed to enable the strategy and practice of self-care and independence, and ultimately help people find their passions.
Jennifer believes social prescribing is a powerful route out of health inequality and to ultimately improve lives.
Discover more about Elemental Software:
Elemental is the leading digital social prescribing solution, enabling over 800 social prescribing hubs and over 3,000 Social Prescribers throughout the UK and Ireland to increase access to and further build the business case for social prescribing.