I’ve just attended a fantastic two days at the second international social prescribing conference at the University of Westminster, London. Social prescribing encompasses all non-medical interventions and therefore logically includes services offered at Penny Brohn UK (eg. counselling, creative arts, Nordic walking, healthy eating). This event was organised by the newly launched Social Prescribing Unit – led by Dr. Marie Polley and Dr. Michael Dixon. The event represented a further evolution in the world of social prescribing as an interventional alliance of social prescribing across the world has been created, enabling best practice to spread far and wide (The Netherlands, Finland, Singapore, Canada and beyond).
The conference had a real buzz of anticipation around as social prescribing represents a really exciting positive change for healthcare in the UK. At the conference evidence was presented by several speakers showing that social prescribing can support people with complex long-term conditions to improve the quality of their lives and health outcomes, there was even some evidence showing a reduction in health care usage.
Both days had fantastic key notes. Day one was lifestyle medicine from Dr. Dean Ornish from USA, who presented compelling evidence for lifestyle change and health and wellbeing (central message: “eat well, love more, stress less, move more”). Day two saw Dr. Daisy Fancourt present strong evidence using “big data” to create simulated experiments for social prescribing related activities and showing that if people take up a hobby the are 272% more likely to recover from depression. See more of her work on the MARCH network. Dr. Marie Polley also presented her latest work on outcome measures in social prescribing laying down a challenge to generate appropriate measures for citizens, not patients, as the remit of social prescribing extends beyond illness/health and into all aspects of wellness including employment and the environment.
Supportive non-medical interventions tailored to individual needs are gathering an impressive evidence base, and are at the heart of NHS England’s long-term plan. Recent announcements from NHS England that primary care networks will be supported by 1,000 social prescribing workers by April 2021 has raised the emphasis of social prescribing as part of the mainstream. However, delegates at the conference raised that it is still unclear how the voluntary sector will be funded to support the extra demand created by more link workers signposting to these services. Some solutions started to be discussed at the conference, however clearly more dedicated funding for the voluntary sector is needed to meet rising demand.
Penny Brohn UK actively supports social prescribing by running many services which can be prescribed to, in particular our creative arts provision is very relevant. With the rising emphasis of social prescribing there needs to be a clear funding stream to support services that deliver the prescribed interventions work so that voluntary sector services like those provided by Penny Brohn UK can be provided.
“Clearly more dedicated funding for the voluntary sector is needed to meet rising demand.”