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How social prescribing is improving the lives of Londoners and helping them to thrive

11th October 2018

Amelia Howard, Senior Manager — New Models of Care and Proactive Care Lead at Healthy London Partnership, reflects on how social prescribing is helping to having a positive impact in linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community across London.

“In the last 12 months I’ve been on a journey to understand Social Prescribing — what it really is, why are people increasingly interested in it, and how it helps people. This week for World Mental Health day I wanted to share a few of my personal reflections.

In a time when our connection to communities is often so challenged that we now have a Minister for Loneliness, where the Office for National Statistics reports that over 9 million adults are often or always lonely, never has there been a more pressing need to re-build our communities.

At its core, Social Prescribing is all about re-creating the strength of our communities and supporting local and voluntary organisations and groups to thrive, encouraging and helping people to get involved.

In the past year I’ve heard the stories of so many individuals whose lives have been improved by the services they’ve accessed. From the older people who are making friends and becoming re-invigorated by attending the Crawley Posh Club to the 1000’s of people being referred to their local Park Run to not only make new friends but get fitter in the process.

The benefits to individual’s well-being and health are well proven. With schemes demonstrating improvements in self-reported well-being, increased employment and education, and reduction in the use of health services.

I’ve seen the stories of social prescribing connectors working closely with other partners to together support individuals manage their lives better. A great example of this is the partnership between Merton’s social prescribing scheme and the London Fire Brigade’s Fire Safe and Well initiative. Mr K was referred to the social prescribing scheme by his GP who identified a number of supports he could benefit from, including a visit from his local fire safe and well programme to minimise his fire risk.

Mr K is an older gentleman from Ireland from a hospitality background who was referred for us for a befriender in January 2018. He once led a very active life but has become increasingly less active due to his deterioration in health. He lives independently in his own home which he has lived in for over 40 years and where he is very happy and comfortable. He had to wait a little while for the right befriending match due to his location at the far end of the borough, as well as the fact that he had an unexpected admission to hospital. The wait was worth it as he has been matched with a young lady who has lots in common — they are from the same area in Ireland and also from the same profession! Lots to talk about and great company. This is a difficult time for Mr K due to lots of health changes. Time spent with his volunteer gives him the opportunity to talk to somebody other than family. He can reminisce about his old life with his volunteer, and she helps to reconnect him with the outside world once again. His family are also grateful that there is somebody who can pop in when they are not able to.

The thing that is most amazing about Social Prescribing for me, is how much is on offer across London and how many people giving their time and energy to the enormous range of voluntary organisations that provide these services.

Virtually any activity you can think is happening somewhere in this city and community connectors seem to about it all, and support people to find the right activity for them.

There are some great stories from people who’ve used social prescribing services, who can convey far better than I ever can how they’ve been impacted. These can be found in the East Merton Social Prescribing Project video produced by Healthy London Partnership.

There are Social Prescribing schemes operating across London, with new schemes starting on a regularly basis, and an aim that in the next 10 years every Londoner will have access to social prescribing. To find out more have a look at our animation.

About the author

Amelia Howard is currently the lead for Proactive Care for Health London Partnership working to develop the Social Prescribing landscape within London. She has been working on strategic change programmes within the NHS for the past six years, including Proactive Care and Empower the Person, Transforming Care for people with Learning Disabilities and the Prevent Programme. Amelia’s career started in Australia where she has in various roles within the health sector predominantly supporting people to manage their health conditions in the context of achieving meaningful education and employment outcomes.

This blog post was originally published via NHS England London.

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