Post-Covid social prescribing boom predicted for charities

A programme has been launched to help charities tap into an expected increase in ‘social prescribing’ within the NHS post Covid-19 pandemic.

The Accelerating Innovation in Social Prescribing programme is being led by the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) and the NHS.

It aims to bring together charities and health services amid increasing interest in social prescribing post-Covid pandemic.

The NASP says demand is rising following the health crisis and an increase in mental health, loneliness, and other long-term conditions.

Social prescribing is where health professionals refer patients to services provided by charities and community groups.

The increasingly used form of healthcare sees doctors and GPs ‘prescribe’ schemes such as gardening classes, befriending schemes, and healthy eating sessions. Also increasingly prescribed are charity services to support people with debt, employment, and housing issues.

The Accelerating Innovation in Social Prescribing programme aims to promote partnerships across the NHS, charities and community groups, assess existing skills and resources as well as share good practice.

The NASP says the programme is designed for national voluntary organisations, “who have places, people and services which can be deployed in social prescribing provision”.

“Many national voluntary organisations have much of what they need to deliver wonderful social prescribing offers,” said RVS chief executive Catherine Johnstone.

“This programme enables them to learn from each other, put real focus on their innovation and with expert support plug any gaps that are holding them back.”

“The programme will prioritise areas of unmet social prescribing need where national organisations have a role to play but are not yet delivering and support innovative activity where the programme can add most value.”

NASP chief executive James Sanderson added: “National organisations have told us they have much to offer social prescribing. With their input we’ll be able to engage more people in activities that support their health and wellbeing, particularly amongst communities affected by health inequalities and COVID-19.”

In 2018 the government announced plans to enable GPs to refer patients experiencing loneliness to charities that run social inclusion programmes.

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