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Social Prescribing – What is it?

Kirsty Marrs |29, April, 2022

By Dr Deborah Shenton.

There are some very academic explanations to explain what social prescribing is – and is not, but as a very quick explanation it is what could be termed a ‘non-medical prescription’ for people who need more or other then a medical intervention. This non-medical need or prescription is usually a social need. As one GP stated recently, people who visit him are also likely to need some type of social intervention as much as medical support.

A social prescription has been termed due to the GPs who have been the first port of call when a person is feeling ‘out of sorts’. It has been recognised that many people feel ‘out of sorts’ for a number of reasons and some of those do not have to be due to a physical problem but can occur due to some type of stress or anxiety because of what is happening around them, for example, feeling lonely or low can impact on  physical wellbeing.

Recently GPs and other healthcare staff have sought to support patients with finding and providing more social care to run alongside more medial approaches to healthcare. This could include, some form of exercise class, yoga or meditation etc. but can also include some type of counselling, or may just require some form of buddy groups to support specific illnesses or stress related issue. Or it might just be a case of attending a coffee morning or crafting group to support issues like isolation and mental health. There is a flexibility and often the support is locally based. This support may not be time limited.

There is also a self-management part of this process, which can benefit not only their own situation, but an added bonus of social prescribing is how some people have gone onto want to support others, forming new groups or negotiating the removal of barriers based on their own experiences for example transport is provided to enable more people to attend social outlets.

It’s not to say that social prescribing should be seen as eradicating medical support but as an extra means of provision to enable people the option to have access to both support processes, to help address their healthcare needs.