PCNs have been given six months to design, agree and put in place a targeted programme to improve access to social prescribing, NHS England has confirmed.
The new Network DES, released today, says that PCNs must agree by 30 September a plan with clinical leaders, voluntary sector partners and local authority commissioners to ‘proactively offer’ the services to an identified cohort with unmet needs.
That plan ‘must take into account views of people with lived experience’, as part of a broader social prescribing service, it said.
As part of the update to the personalised care service specification, PCNs will be expected to start delivering the service the following day (1 October).
Dr Saul Kaufman, clinical director at St Johns Wood and Maida Vale PCN, said: ‘Social prescribing has a huge benefit in terms of an individual’s health outcomes, and getting the voluntary sector involved is absolutely the way forward.
‘But the DES doesn’t mention that funding will need to go into the sector. For social prescribing to work in the community, you need an adequately resourced voluntary sector.’
NHS England also instructed PCNs to ‘audit a sample of the PCN’s patients’ current experiences of shared decision making’ and take note of any improvements they might implement as a result.
It comes a month after NHS England announced it had delayed the implementation deadline for several aspects of the spec by 12 months, granting PCNs until March 2024 to implement digitally enabled personalised care and support planning for care home residents.
NHS England had also confirmed in the same announcement that PCNs would have an extra three months to develop their anticipatory care plans.
Meanwhile, today’s new Network DES also revealed that PCNs will be able to deploy twice as many adult mental health practitioners.
It also confirmed that a GP will be required to cover all enhanced access shifts offered by PCNs.