The NHS will recruit an army of non-medical advisers to help patients live healthier lives and combat anxiety, loneliness and depression, under plans to ramp up social prescribing, ministers have announced.
One thousand ‘social prescribing link workers’ will be hired to direct patients to community services, such as exercise or art classes, in a bid to boost health and wellbeing without medication.
The aim is to support general practitioners over the next five years, to help ease the workload and pressures that they are under.
It is hoped that by 2023-24, social prescribers will be handling around 900,000 patient appointments a year.
The blueprint for Universal Personalised Care, which will also free up GPs to deal with patients who really need them, is due to approved by the NHS England Board later this week.
Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s Acting Medical Director of Primary Care, said: “We see the network of social prescribers as a fundamental change to the way primary care operates and vital to the future. Recruiting social prescriber link workers will be a priority target as a part of the Universal Care Plan.”
The expansion of social prescribing comes in backed by family doctors and comes alongside plans to expand the primary care workforce as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan.
James Sanderson, NHS England’s director of Personalised Care, said: “A one-size-fits-all health and care system simply cannot meet the increasing complexity of people’s needs and expectations, so we’re setting out how people who live with multiple long term conditions can expect the same choice and control over their mental and physical health that they have come to expect in every other aspect of their life.”
“Social Prescribing is an important component of the NHS comprehensive model of Personalised Care and there is emerging evidence that it can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing. The aim is that social prescribing schemes lead to a substantial reduction in the use of NHS services, including GP attendances.”