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Announcement: Dr Michael Dixon announces retirement as Co-Chair of the Social Prescribing Network

The College of Medicine’s Chair, Dr Michael Dixon, has announced he is leaving the Social Prescribing Network, after co-founding the organisation in 2015. Current Co-Chair Sian Brand announced the news, saying Dr Dixon had been the SPN’s ‘constant’ over the last eight years.

Brand said of her Co-Chair: “From a little-known proposal to a widely supported and understood, holistic approach within his GP and clinical peers and beyond, Michael has been key to the development and spread of social prescribing on a grand scale.” 

She added: “The Network will miss him being Co-Chair but we know his good work will continue.”

Dr Dixon reflected on how the Network has evolved, describing how a train journey from Devon to London with Dr Marie Polley (who was to become Co-Chair of the National Social Prescribing Network) and Professor Damien Ridge planted the seed for the organisation – as the trio discussed how a trial using the first social prescribing link worker, a practitioner named Ruth, had been a success.  

Dr Dixon explained: “Marie had just completed two years of research in my own practice supported by one of those philanthropists, Peter Stephens, and had shown that Ruth had been able to convert a third of 120 diabetics or those at risk of diabetes to no longer being so with substantial improvements in weight, quality of life and patient activation index.

“As we were passed Reading all three of us came to the same conclusion.  Wasn’t it time to make social prescription a national movement and agitate for national funding and provision?”

He said the Network had helped bring Social Prescribing into the mainstream health service, and urged those to continue their ‘extraordinary’ achievements.

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“‘It has been a real joy and privilege to work with so many inspiring and like-minded people – all too numerous to mention.  It has been uplifting to rub shoulders with enthusiastic pioneers representing such strong values.  Our debates and discussions have always been passionate and challenging but never acrimonious or conflicting. 

“Those meetings and conferences on social prescription were invariably uplifting as a band of brothers and sisters that had discovered new things, which are now changing the definition of medicine itself and are key to future sustainable health services. 
 
Dr Dixon concluded: “We were never part of the establishment and never wanted to be. It is extraordinary that the movement has progressed so far so fast but the next stage of social prescribing and its development carries ever greater risks of homogenisation, mistranslation and neglect.  That is why fresh leadership is now required but I can only say to all those in the National Social Prescribing Network and who have been on this journey – just look at what you have achieved!”