The UK minister for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, has said the Government is committed to Social Prescribing, following last week’s Social Prescribing Day, saying funding of £3.6million will be poured into it over the next two years.
Writing in the Sunday Express, the Conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire, said he believed ‘passionately’ that ‘social prescribing can be empowering and potentially life-changing’.
In the opinion piece, which appeared alongside an article about Brighton GP Dr Laura Marshall-Andrews, who is The College of Medicine’s Lead on Integrated General Practice, he wrote: ‘People who are lonely and isolated have found a new lease of life through a befriending group, or sports such as football or angling.
‘There are some phenomenal stories that illustrate how social prescribing can ease pressure on NHS services and reduce waiting lists.’
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The Health Secretary referenced Dr Marshall-Andrew’s work, which has reduced GP appointments at the Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre which she founded a decade ago, by 41 per cent, thanks to focusing on non-medical alternatives, rather than opiate prescriptions, for patients with drug addiction. He said it was ‘easy to understand why it is having such an impact.’
Speaking about how the healthcare system can benefit from Social Prescribing, he wrote: ‘Around 1.6 million referrals have been made to social prescribing services – 700,000 more than we aimed for – and NHS England has smashed its target to recruit 1,000 NHS link workers, with more than 3,000 now working across Britain.
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‘They spend time getting to know the person who needs help so they can connect them with community activities and services that provide support, including financial, welfare and legal advice.’
Mr Barclay added: ‘The Government is backing social prescribing with money. Just before Christmas, we announced additional funding of £3.6million this financial year and the next.
‘The National Academy for Social Prescribing has called these interventions “hope on prescription”. I hope that many more who need this support get in touch with these services to benefit from them.’