“Social prescribing” – a holistic approach to health, by Frances Hasler

Social prescribing, sometimes referred to as community referral, is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services.

Because our health is affected by our social circumstances, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

There are many different ways of organising social prescribing, but most involve a link worker or navigator who works with people to access local sources of support. Camden has a range of social prescribing type schemes, working with specific groups or areas, such as Community Connectors  (older people) and Team Around the Practice (mental health).  

Healthwatch Camden is a partner at the St Pancras and Somers Town Living Centre. One of the things on offer there is ‘signposting’ – helping people to find and use local services, including putting them directly in touch with services. The signposting co-ordinator, Peter Simonson, is excited about the potential for the Living Centre to be a central point for social prescribing in the South of the borough.

He’s been to a conference at The Kings Fund (a health think-tank) to gather lots of information on how social prescribing is developing elsewhere. You can see lots of information from the conference here.

Peter has his own experience of how getting involved in local activities can really boost your wellbeing.  He says:

“In late 2015 I had a period when I was feeling very low and depressed. I’d become isolated from my local area as none of my friends lived there anymore. I needed to make contacts with people in my local area. I saw my local GP who prescribed a short period of anti-anxiety tablets, but these didn’t solve the problem they merely hid it. So I joined a number of local social groups, art therapy classes, book clubs and the local Labour Party. Since then things have improved immensely. I get invited to neighbours for dinner and nights out, something which hadn’t occurred for some time. I cannot explain how much this has improved my sense of wellbeing and I would recommend it to anyone who feels in the state that I did in 2015.”

Whether it’s a book group or an art class or just someone to be company on a walk, the signposting service at the Living Centre can help you to find it in Camden. It can also help with other issues – referring you to partners at the Living Centre who provide advice on a range of issues including housing, benefits, health services, employment.

Comment below to let us know what you would like to see what you’d like to see from social prescribing in Camden.