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More funds for social prescribing schemes

An extra £4.5m to be made available for GPs in England to refer patients to social activities

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that it will make nearly £4.5 million available for social prescribing schemes to allow GPs to refer patients to local voluntary and community services such as walking clubs, gardening or arts activities.

A total of 23 social prescribing projects in England will receive a share of the funding to extend existing social prescribing schemes or establish new ones.

Schemes receiving the additional funding include a new street games scheme across Sheffield, Southampton, Luton, and Brighton and Hove, focusing on socially excluded young people aged 5 to 25, a Dudley Council project to expand support for people with a very high dependency on A&E, and a  new Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire and South Northamptonshire scheme to support those who are lonely or socially isolated in deprived rural areas.

The funding will come from the Health and Wellbeing Fund, part of a programme of government investment in the voluntary sector. The projects will be fully funded through the scheme in their first year. Additional joint funding from local commissioners will be agreed for the subsequent two years.

Evidence shows that social prescribing, which aims to improve patients’ quality of life, health and wellbeing by recognising that health is affected by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, can reduce demand on NHS services. One UK study found that after 3 to 4 months, 80% of patients referred to a social prescribing scheme had reduced their use of A&E, outpatient appointments and inpatient admissions.

Care minister Caroline Dinenage said: “The voluntary and community sector has such a vital role to play in working with our health system to provide the kind of support that you can’t receive at your local GP surgery or hospital.

“This new funding will mean that many more people receive support that looks at their needs holistically, enabling them to live happier, more independent lives. I look forward to seeing these projects put their plans into action and provide support to hundreds of thousands more people.”

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