Sarah Collins shares the short story of social prescribing and the many ways it can be approached.

Social Prescribing is a  concept that  the UK healthcare system has used for the last 15 years. 

It was borne out of the transformation workstreams around improving care for people living with Long Term Health Conditions; seeking to help improve health and wellbeing without just prescribing medication. In many ways, this approach has always been part of a wider healthcare plan when working with patients to encourage a more holistic way of looking at living with a long-term health condition. However, it was not always done well, if at all.

As a result, the term ‘Social Prescribing’ was brought in to address a more holistic, patient-centred approach to health care.  There are many models and ways that people are encouraged to look at their health in a more holistic way and this makes sense as there are many factors and ways we live our lives that can affect our health and well being.  There is no one way as we are all unique.

Perhaps because of this, many people are unsure what social prescribing actually means and what it involves.  

As a former NHS clinician I used to view it as a way to look at what was going on within an individual’s life and family, and how this may affect their health. For instance how people shop and what cooking facilities are available is often linked to finances. Mobility and access to transport can bring up issues around loneliness and isolation, alongside whether  an individual enjoys and prefers being with other people, part of groups or on their own… As you can imagine the list is endless.  

How questions are asked to glean this information is also a vital part of the social prescribing conversation. We have all experienced being asked questions that were used to complete someone’s’ tick list’ for an insurance or application process.  Do we really want to discuss our lives and personal health and well being in this way too?  

Social prescribing is so much more than something that is done to an individual or patient. When used effectively it is a way to develop a therapeutic equal relationship with another person.  A less helpful and effective approach is to simply prescribe a solution to someone’s healthcare problem.  This therefore requires training and support for the individuals working with people in order for them to be able to help the people they support.  Active listening and understanding are key here.

If we look to Lancaster and the surrounding areas, there are many practical examples of organisations working with people to help improve their health and wellbeing – both within and outside the formal health care system.  FoodFutures is keen to explore these different ways of working, to link things up, and to see how projects can also help implement the outcomes of the Our Food Futures community food strategy. We are keen to understand how holistic approaches to health and wellbeing can benefit not only individuals but also communities.

To support this, FoodFutures is hosting an event on 14th September 2022 in Lancaster to discuss social prescribing opportunities and to co-develop a holistic way to approach these.  As part of this, the event will explore opportunities to create, support and develop sustainable food projects and ways of working with communities that increase access to healthful food choices for all.  

For more information and to join the event on the 14th September BOOK HERE.

Booking is essential.


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