People living at home with long-term health problems stand to benefit from a new independent National Academy for Social Prescribing, which will support local healthcare professionals in prescribing arts, sport and leisure activities.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has set out his ambition for every patient in the country to have access to social prescriptions, such as art and singing classes, on the NHS.
This builds on NHS Long Term Plan commitment to help 2.5 million more people benefit from personalised care within five years.
The Academy, backed by £5 million of government, will share best practice, develop training and accreditation and improve the evidence base for social prescribing.
The aim is to combat isolation among vulnerable people and ease the burden on the NHS.
Only 60% of Clinical Commissioning Groups currently use social prescribing for patients with anxiety, mental health problems and dementia but in some parts of the country patients with long term conditions who have had access to social prescribing link workers have reported to be less isolated, attended 47% fewer hospital appointments and made 38% fewer A&E attendances, according to government figures.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This Academy is much more important than any one individual. It’s about all of us in health, arts, culture, sport, communities coming together around one simple principle: that prevention is better than cure.
“Social prescribing is a huge part of this. There are thousands of people up and down the country right now who are already benefiting from activities like reading circles, choir groups and walking football.”
The National Academy for Social Prescribing will work to standardise the quality and range of social prescribing available to patients; champion the benefits of social prescribing; bring together partners from health, housing and local government with arts, culture and sporting organisations to maximise role of social prescribing; and focus on developing training and accreditation across sectors.
Heading up the new Academy, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who will step down as Chair of the Royal College of Practitioners next month, said: “I’m thrilled to have been appointed as Chair of this new Academy. Social prescribing has always been so close to my heart as a practicing GP. It’s what good GPs have always done in terms of getting the best help and support for our patients beyond the medicines we also provide them with.
“I’m looking forward to starting work with colleagues from so many sectors to bring social prescribing into the mainstream, to train and educate social prescribers of the future and to establish a great evidence base and raise the profile of this fantastic initiative.”