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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

Outgoing RCGP chair to head new social prescribing academy

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, outgoing chair of the RCGP, is to lead a new government-funded national academy supporting social prescribing projects.

Backed by £5m of government funding and developed in partnership with Sport England, Arts Council England and voluntary sector partners, the National Academy for Social Prescribing will promote prescribed activities like art, singing and gardening.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said his ambition is for every patient in the country to have access to social prescriptions on the NHS as readily as they do medical care.

It forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s aim to refer at least 900,000 people to social prescribing within five years. Overall the Long Term Plan hopes to give 2.5 million people access to social prescribing.

The academy will work to standardise the quality and range of social prescribing available to patients and develop and share best practice.

It will also focus on developing training and accreditation across the sectors involved, including health, housing, local government, arts, culture and sports.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it expects the academy to ‘ease the burden’ on the NHS, arguing that parts of the country that already use social prescribing have seen 47% fewer hospital appointments and 38% fewer A&E attendances from patients with certain long-term conditions.

Professor Stokes-Lampard 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 practising 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.’

Mr Hancock added: ‘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 benefitting from activities like reading circles, choir groups and walking football.

‘The National Academy for Social Prescribing will act as a catalyst to bring together the excellent work already being done across the NHS and beyond, building on our NHS Long Term Plan’s ambition to get over 2.5m more people benefitting from personalised care within the next five years.’

Readers' comments (34)

  • Straight back to the front line then 🙄

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  • I’m worried about this. Although I see the value of being able to refer patients to arts projects and such like (I helped set up an arts referral project for people with mental health problems here in Lewisham many years ago), I nevertheless think that there is a really important issue that is being missed. I had naively thought that social prescribers would help people access support for social problems. Many of our patients need help and advice on major social problems such as poor housing, discrimination. debt, poverty, benefits, migration issues, work place stress and bullying and many other things. These are the social issues that our patients bring to us, every day, as GPs for help with solving and which we are ill equipped to do. These social problems cause immense stress and anxiety in our patients and contribute to their mental and physical health problems. Why are social prescribers not helping with those things? Or maybe it's not their role. In which case what our patients need is not social prescribing but access to decent free legal advice, debt advice, social work support and so on. These sources of advice have all been defunded in recent years and are pretty much unavailable to most patients. I think that social prescribing has to be rethought so it has a wider remit to include providing support and signpost for help with the serious social issues listed above. If not I don’t think social prescribing is going to be much use to many of our patients.

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  • "The Department for Health and Social Care said it expects the academy to ‘ease the burden’ on the NHS, arguing that parts of the country that already use social prescribing have seen 47% fewer hospital appointments and 38% fewer A&E attendances from patients with certain long-term conditions."
    May we have a reference for this claim please?

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  • Creativity knows no bounds - you always have to create a cushy position when you retire from one lucrative post. A Dept of Medical Thinkology next with a cushy Director post?

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  • Another example of a GP who doesn’t appear to want to do the day job 😒

    (Yes I’m aware she works ‘some’ clinical sessions)

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  • Does medical indemnity cover telling a patient to ‘take a walk’?

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  • “social prescriptions on the NHS as readily as they do medical care.“
    So a service that is so underfunded that you get some attention much later than you should and so understaffed that you get a maximum of 7 Minutes a month with a suitable member of the team - and then only if you are skilled enough to game the appointment system.

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  • Even Stalin didn’t think of this one

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  • OK all valid points however;

    This could be good,and having a nominal GP at the top could be useful,best not to denigrate too quickly.

    Ideally,medical institutions,including the one she is leaving,would lobby to head the patients off at the pass.

    A campaign to persuade the patients to directly access all these resources,before consulting a GP.Patients should be advised to try these first,then see a GP if it is not helping.

    The GP does not have any magic way of knowing if this is going to help,the only way forward is to try it and see.

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  • Vinci Ho

    I have nothing against social prescribing. But it is always about knowing honestly what you are talking about when you talk about ‘something’ . Like PCN ideology , social prescribing has been deemed as the new magic potion to solve all these problems and inequalities currently existing in NHS . As a clinical director of a PCN , I am still yet to know exactly what and how the social prescriber we suppose to employ in PCN , is going to deliver . The generic job description is more rhetorical and ideological than being tangible and practical.
    Perhaps, social prescribing in its ‘true’ nature is going to be therapeutic for some patients with certain medical problems. The common sense tells you that it is not universally life-changing (not even to mention life-saving yet) . I believe the evidences in literature are rather debatable and inconsistent. I would like to know the details of what type of social prescribing helps which type of medical problem definitively.
    The caveat is that we ultimately had ‘helped’ politicians like Mr Hancock to shift attention away from the real problems in NHS which actually require more hard core solutions.

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