Social prescribing can help give some patients a 'sense of purpose', says College

Publication date: 21 February 2018

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to recommendations made by NHS England to encourage health and local government sectors to work together to offer social prescribing initiatives.

She said: "It's good news to hear about so many schemes across the country where primary and secondary care are working together to implement social prescribing initiatives that are benefitting patients, and having a positive impact on the NHS as a whole.

"Over 1m patients are seen in general practice each day, and GPs will always take into account a patient's physical, psychological and social factors potentially affecting their health when making a diagnosis and formulating a treatment plan.

"Sometimes, what our patients need isn't actually traditional medical care; it is encouragement to take an exercise class, or any activity that will get them out of the house and mixing with other people. GPs and other colleagues in their teams will readily recommend these initiatives if they are appropriate and available locally.

"Social prescribing is something that experienced GPs have always done – it just the actual term was not widely used until recently. Benefits we have seen can include prescribing less medication, fewer follow-up consultations, and engaging patients more with their own health. Linking patients with local voluntary organisations can also help to give people a sense of purpose.

"It's clear that for social prescribing schemes to work well, then different sectors of health and social care services must work together constructively, and input from local councils can really help. It is also imperative that there are enough community services that could have a positive impact on our patients' physical and mental health and wellbeing, to meet demand.

"Social prescribing initiatives can potentially help free up some GPs' time which can then be used caring for patients with the most complex health needs, and thus ease pressures on general practice and the wider NHS - but they must not be seen as an alternative to investing in our general practice service.

"Ultimately, we need NHS England's GP Forward View, pledging £2.4bn extra a year and 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs by 2020, to be delivered urgently and in full, and for equivalent promises to be made and delivered in each of the devolved nations."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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