Thursday 18th March 2021 is International Social Prescribing Day – a date which is marked to recognise the thousands of social prescribing projects across the UK and worldwide, which are dedicated to supporting the physical and emotional health of communities and promoting cross-sector collaboration between different professions.
International Social Prescribing Day is a collaboration between The College of Medicine and Integrated Health, NHS England, The Royal College of GPs and other key partner and volunteer organisations.
The UK are leading the way in social prescribing, with a national strategy now embedded in to government policy.
The UK is also home to the Social Prescribing International Conference which takes place every year in early March.
The theme of the 2021 (online) conference was ‘social prescribing & community – beyond the pandemic’ and it focussed on key issues such as the role of community in social prescribing and how social prescribing is addressing wider determinants of health and inequalities, as well as positive success stories in the UK and overseas. This year’s conference also included an address from HRH The Prince of Wales in which he spoke about the potential of social prescribing to “make a major contribution to some of the most important issues of our time.”
The Prince of Wales also discussed the power of the natural world in maintaining mental and physical well-being, saying;
“I have seen it first-hand, the importance of people being connected to nature and all the benefits this brings to body, mind and soul”, and said he was delighted to see more funding for research into the benefits of ‘green prescribing’ in particular.
You can watch the full video here;
So what is Social Prescribing?
Social Prescribing can be described as a social movement, which brings together organisations and practitioners from the medical profession, complementary therapy professions, community charities, housing services, prison services, local libraries, financial advisors, walking clubs, green projects, arts and many more.
Social prescribing initiatives aim to support communities by providing services and provisions outside of traditional medicine. In particular, social prescribing projects aim to support those who may be affected by economic or social disadvantage, as well as individuals who may be more vulnerable to mental health issues, which is even more vital as we move through this current global health pandemic and all of its related social, economic and health-related side-effects.
Social Prescribing is a means of enabling GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker – to provide them with a face to face conversation during which they can learn about the possibilities and design their own personalised solutions, i.e. ‘co-produce’ their ‘social prescription’- so that people with social, emotional or practical needs are empowered to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector. It is an innovative and growing movement, with the potential to reduce the financial burden on the NHS and particularly on primary care. Source: https://www.socialprescribingnetwork.com/
Although social prescribing has been around since the 1990’s, operating on a grass-roots basis, the UK government has now recognised that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, and social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs holistically.
NHS England aim to have social prescribing fully implemented across GP surgeries by 2023. By this time, every GP practice in England will have access to a social prescribing link worker and 900,000 people will be referred to social prescribing services by 2023/4.
This strategy is part of the NHS Long Term Plan which aims to deliver more community-centered health and social care, promoting holistic well-being services outside of clinical settings.
Examples of Social Prescribing
One of the most well-known examples of social prescribing success is the Bromley by Bow Centre, which was established in 1984. Based in East London, it is a pioneering charity that combines an extensive neighbourhood hub with a medical practice and a community research project. It is described as the UK’s first Healthy Living Centre, used by around 2,000 people every week (Source: Wikipedia).
Dr Michael Dixon (OBE), current chair of the College of Medicine and Integrated Health is also a long term champion for social prescribing initiatives and non-biomedical interventions in health and care, a strategy that he pioneered at his GP practice in Devon for many years.
Other success stories include Merton Clinical Commissioning Group in the Midlands and Live Well Wakefield and more recently, St Austell Healthcare in Devon, as well as schemes in Ireland and The Netherlands.
Complementary Healthcare and the CNHC
The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) is a voluntary regulator of complementary healthcare practitioners in the UK, set up to protect the public and regulate practitioners.
The CNHC holds an Accredited Register, approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, providing a database of registered complementary healthcare practitioners. The register can be accessed by the general public, as well as health care professionals, including GP’s who may use it when making social prescribing referrals.
Along with Reiki, the CNHC registers complementary healthcare practitioners from 18 different professions, including aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga.
I was very privileged to complete my Reiki Level 1 and 2 training and attunements with Anne-Marie Carratu at her practise in Surrey. Anne-Marie is the current Chair of the UK Reiki Federation and works closely with the CNHC and The Integrated Healthcare Collaborative (IHC), and is involved with projects such as Connecting Reiki with Medicine, working as a Reiki practitioner on the acute care ward at St George’s Hospital, London.
As one of Anne-Marie’s students, I was encouraged to complete the CNHC-approved syllabus for Reiki practitioners. CNHC registrant status enables me to provide Reiki as a complementary healthcare service, in line with the NHS’s long term plan to roll out social prescribing services across England.
This has been particularly rewarding during the past twelve months as CNHC registrants have been given permission to provide treatments to clients on a one-to-one basis for an identified mental or physical health condition or injury that is causing pain, or having an adverse impact on mobility or quality of life. The UK government allowed this on the basis that CNHC Registrants in England meet the definition of “other…health services, including services relating to mental health” contained in Section 47, Part 3 of the Schedule to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020.
Holistic health and the continued integration of complementary therapies in to our existing healthcare system is an aspiration that I strongly support and will be proud to be able to contribute to throughout my career.
According to the Royal Society for Public Health 2017 report ‘Untapped Resources: Accredited Registers in the Wider Workforce’, there are up to 80,000 healthcare professionals on accredited registers in the UK, representing a huge workforce with potential to make a significant contribution to promoting and protecting the public’s health. This includes over 20,000 registered complementary therapists who are able to support public health.
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. You can also ask your GP about social prescribing in your local area as well.
Resources and further information;
Social Prescribing Case Studies
Complementary Healthcare and Reiki
The CNHC – https://www.cnhc.org.uk/
Connecting Reiki With Medicine – https://www.reikiwithmedicine.org/
‘Untapped Resources’ 2017 report –