NHS to boost social prescribing with 1,000 ‘link workers’

The NHS plans to boost social prescribing – thus removing some of the burden from GPs – by hiring at least 1,000 ‘link workers’

The NHS is attempting to boost social prescribing with the aid of around 1,000 ‘link workers’, according to inews.

The aim is to take a thousand people on to direct others towards exercise, dance, history or art classes rather than to their GP surgery.

NHS England officials say that such social prescribing can create a better sense of health and wellbeing than medication.

The 1,000 people the NHS aims to take on won’t need any specific qualifications but will receive training. The health service aims to have them in place by April 2021.

Approximately half of all GP appointments don’t directly relate to a medical condition, so the hope is that this scheme will free up GP time for less urgent requirements.

Social prescribing is a key element of the Long-Term Plan, which has outlined a plan for social prescribers to be handling 900,000 patient appointments per year by 2023-24.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Often the underlying reason a patient visits their GP is not medical, yet it can have a considerable impact on their health and wellbeing.

“Ensuring that GPs and our teams have good, easy access to people who can link patients with classes or groups in the community and other non-NHS services, that could potentially be of far more benefit than any medicine, is something the College has long called-for, so the focus on this is incredibly welcome.”

Director of clinical services at Dementia UK, Paul Edwards has commented the below: “Social prescribing is key to improving the health of people with long-term conditions and reducing the pressures on an over-burdened NHS. In cases of dementia, families are facing increased isolation which can lead to anxiety, loneliness and depression, for example.

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“Timely interventions through community support is the route to prevention, which is better for the NHS and for families.

“Our specialist dementia Admiral Nurses lie at the heart of this model. They help to provide links between families facing dementia and the wider community (e.g. through dementia support groups).”

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