Social Prescribing Day is an annual celebration of social prescribing, recognising local community groups and projects which have kept us healthy throughout the pandemic and beyond.
But what is social prescription?
Many things affect our health and wellbeing – finances, social environment, what’s going on at home or a global pandemic to name just a few.
People may visit their GP because they may be feeling stressed about their work, money, or because they are lonely and isolated. The impact that these issues can have on our physical and mental wellbeing has been particularly clear as the nation responds to COVID-19.
But these problems cannot be fixed by medicine, or doctors, alone.
That’s where social prescribing comes in. Social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional community support, through social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies. Link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support.
It helps people get more control over their healthcare, to manage their needs and in a way that suits them. Social prescribing links them to a range of activities that are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations, for example, volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.
When social prescribing works well, people can be easily referred to social prescribing link workers from within their local area, for example, from the NHS – general practice, pharmacies, multi-disciplinary teams, hospital discharge teams – to fire service, police, job centres, social care services, housing associations and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. People can also refer themselves.
As a not-for-profit, social enterprise, Abbeycroft Leisure works with a number of social prescribers including LifeLink, health professionals and partners to offer services and programmes that help support physical and mental health and wellbeing for local people.
Michelle Zinn, LifeLink Coordinator said:
“Utilising the Active living referral process as a Social Prescriber has been invaluable to many of our participants. It offers a realistic option for helping them to start improving fitness in a variety of different ways, as well as reducing isolation felt particularly after the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
A participant in Newmarket had been struggling with some complex circumstances within their life and this had impacted their self-care and wellbeing significantly. Through Social Prescribing I was able to complete an Active Living referral to Abbeycroft. This was a vital step on their road to recovery and the first thing which they felt able to engage with around their self-care. With increased confidence and well-being they were able to then address other areas which has been neglected, including their sleep, how they ate and re-accessing the wider community leading to employment.
Another Participant struggled with their physical health, and several other community led fitness groups were unsuitable. They were able to access swimming through an Active living referral via Social Prescribing. They reported back that this had been hugely beneficial to both their physical and mental wellbeing and it was the first exercise they had been able to engage in for a long period of time.”
Amba Keeble, LifeLink Coordinator said:
“The Active Living scheme from Abbeycroft has played a central role in many of my social prescribing interactions with participants. For many people I have supported, the Lockdown has really knocked their confidence in engaging with community and as well as physical health, many people have found poor mental health to be a barrier.
It has been wonderful to be able to confidently refer people to a friendly and people focused team that have been able to support my participants in beginning and continuing their health and wellbeing journey.”