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Student doctors need social prescribing in their toolkit: the nation’s future health depends on it

Bogdan Chiva Giurca, Chair of the National Social Prescribing Student Champion Scheme, offers insight how the current generation of trainee doctors are being taught social prescribing…

Developing a national consensus for teaching social prescribing within UK medical schools, the Social Prescribing Student Champion Scheme (1) has, for 2017 and 2018, delivered a total of 68 informal peer-assisted learning teaching sessions on social prescribing across 25 medical schools in the UK.

Trainee doctors of the future need social prescribing in their medical tool-kit, writes Bogdan Chiva Giurca, founder of the National Social Prescribing Student Champion Scheme (Pictured: Bogdan, centre in light blue shirt, at a recent meeting on teaching social prescribing in medical schools)

Elsewhere, academics from several UK medical schools have also expressed their desires to integrate social prescribing formally as part of their undergraduate/post-graduate curriculums.

Data acquired by student champions suggests that a large number of medical schools are already involved in teaching certain aspects of social prescribing, without directly referring to definitions and key principles.

It’s vital that the doctors of the future experience solid teaching on social prescribing at undergraduate/post-graduate level

And the new outcomes for graduates published by the General Medical Council (GMC) (2) emphasise the need to apply social science principles as well as health promotion, patient empowerment, and shared decision-making.

As the gap in teaching is being filled and most medical schools are embracing the biopsychosocial model, it is key to ensure high quality teaching for the next generation of clinicians and healthcare professionals.

We know that medical students represent an untapped asset that can build the foundation of a brighter future for the NHS.

By adding social prescribing to their essential clinical toolkit, tomorrow’s doctors have the potential to tackle wider social determinants of ill-health by focusing on what matters to patients as opposed to what’s the matter with the patients.

On the 18th of September 2018 we hosted a national stakeholder’s meeting, at the University of Westminster, to develop a national consensus for teaching Social Prescribing within UG and PG medical school curriculums.

The meeting brought together a wide range of individuals, including representatives from NHS England, RCGP, Bromley by Bow Centre, the College of Medicine, medical schools, medical students, and many other key stakeholders submitting their opinions in writing.

The discussion focused on five main themes which were previously highlighted by 493 students representing 27 different medical schools who took part in our surveys and focus groups.

We considered the following questions:

1. What is the most appropriate timing for teaching social prescribing within the curriculum? (e.g. Pre-clinical/Clinical/Combination of both)

2. What is the most appropriate delivery method to structure teaching on the subject?
(e.g. lecture, workshop, Student Selected Component, placement, etc.)

3. What is the most appropriate style of teaching this subject? (e.g. Peer-teaching,
clinical or hands-on experience, showcasing real examples from the community, etc.)

4. What should be the core content and main emphasis on during these teaching
sessions?

5. Should students be assessed on these topics? If yes, how?

We hope that the final report will complement the current outcomes for graduates set by the GMC (2) and provide flexible recommendations which could be implemented by medical schools across the UK.

The students of today are the future doctors of tomorrow – and they need to be equipped with the necessary tools to deliver high quality care for all.

References:1. Chiva Giurca, B. (2018). Social prescribing student champion scheme: a novel peer-assisted- learning approach to teaching social prescribing and social
determinants of health. Education for Primary Care Journal, 1-3.
2. General Medical Council (2018): Outcomes for Graduates. Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/- /media/documents/dc11326-outcomes-for-graduates-2018_pdf-75040796.pdf; Accessed: 20/08/18


Bogdan Chiva Giurca