World Social Prescribing Day

New social prescribing initiative in County Durham aims to improve patients’ quality of life

A £4.5m National NHS initiative to prescribe art, exercise and social activities is to be rolled out across all doctor’s surgeries in County Durham.

GPs, nurses and other front-line healthcare professionals will be able to refer patients to a range of local, non-clinical services in a bid to help improve their health and wellbeing through a new social prescribing link worker role.

Thursday (March 12) marks the second annual World Social Prescribing Day highlighting the importance and significance of social prescribing in modern healthcare.

The government backed scheme, funded by NHS England, will see GP practices across England work together in networks to appoint social prescribing link-workers who will signpost patients to services which compliment traditional healthcare.

NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) chief officer Dr Stewart Findlay said: “We know that a significant number of appointments at GP surgeries are not directly related to medical conditions.

“Social prescribing is aimed at helping people who may be anxious, lonely or who may need support, find suitable local social activities to help improve their overall health and wellbeing.

“This could be anything from volunteering to arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending schemes, cookery, healthy eating information, sport and exercise, a social or creative group or specialist advice and support when needed.”

Each of the 13 primary care networks across County Durham will have access to a social prescriber link worker, who will work with patients to create personalised care plans to find suitable activities as an alternative to medication.

“GPs can spend a significant amount of time dealing with patients’ social problems, such as debt and housing issues,” added Dr Findlay.

“Social prescribing schemes will not only benefit patients’ by finding better alternatives to medication, they will also lead to substantial reductions in the use of NHS services and help to free up significant amounts of GP time.”

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