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Social prescribing: transforming lives

So far this week we’ve talked about the history of social prescribing. Join us today as we’ll be discussing the way it can change a patient’s life

Posted: 16 March 2016

If you’ve missed yesterday’s episode of this week’s feature on social prescribing, click here.

Writer: Dr Richard Kimberlee, senior research fellow, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England

Social prescribing calls for a holistic approach as it involves multiple models and definitions. A clear GP referral route, a local focus, methods to provide holistic support to clients and high levels of support with clients are the preferred model in Bristol.

Social prescribing projects present considerable evidence of the transformative effect their social prescribing interventions have on patient lives. In holistic approaches, the complexity of the challenges addressed and the achievements attained can be dramatic. In the words of one Bristol based GP: “We have seen how hard it is to engage some people, and how much patience and time some people need. In health we are often quick to judge, slow to listen, and feel too busy to care in the way we would want to. Having ****** as a partner in our striving to deliver good care for our registered population is like having an extra pair of arms. The team are amazing in their resourcefulness and we are very much richer for the work they are doing.”

Practitioners like David Martin from the Wellspring Healthy Living Centre believe social prescribing under a holistic approach provides them with more space to address patient need than he has had before. Martin says: “I have worked supporting men’s health for a considerable time but what we get in social prescribing is, for the very first time, real time to work effectively, to offer space to go through all the issues that affect wellbeing; everything from suicide to isolation. The benefits it brings I can see every day”.

It was very clear holistic social prescribing practitioners believe success is not simply about achieving positive outcomes such as improved well-being or a return to work, but see their intervention as addressing embedded and unaddressed/undiagnosed issues such as agoraphobia brought on by abusive neighbours or addiction following divorce to name a few. Frontline practitioners in primary care are insufficiently resourced to address such complexity. In this sense social prescribing, and particularly holistic social prescribing, is providing keys to relearning the need to “know all about the patient”.

In Bristol, there is an array of alternative social prescribing initiatives evolving. Holistic interventions represent the culmination of active partnerships between primary care practitioners and third sector providers. Together they have developed an effective approach to address embedded need both partners recognise are not being sufficiently addressed within the current resources and pressures faced by GPs in their practices.

Join us tomorrow as we'll be talking about the different models of social prescribing