NHS England has announced they will be recruiting an ‘army’ of 1,000 ‘social prescribers’ to help patients live better and healthier lives as well as combat depression, loneliness and anxiety.
According to experts, around half of GP appointments are not related to any specific medical condition with growing evidence that community referrals like art or exercise classes can boost patients well-being much more effectively than current pharmaceutical standards of care.
The social prescribers or ‘link workers’ will be able to give patients time to talk about what matters to them and support them to find suitable activities that are a better alternative to medication – something which forms part of the NHS push in ‘personalised care’.
Secretary state for health and social care Matt Hancock said: “Personalised care is the future and there’s growing evidence that supporting people to access community services and activities, such as chess clubs or dance classes, has the power to improve people’s health and wellbeing. For the first time ever, millions of people across the country will soon be able to access care that is truly tailored to their individual needs.
“As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, social prescribing will become an indispensable tool for GPs, who will be supported by a new army of workers. This is prevention in action and will help to combat some of the scourges of modern life, from loneliness to mental health, or over-medicalisation.
By 2023-24, it is estimated these social prescribers will be handling around 900,000 patient appointments a year.