Social prescribing is reaping the benefits for patients - new report

10th February 2016

Patients with long-term health conditions are reaping huge benefits from being prescribed non-medical treatments by their doctors.

Social prescribing, which helps GPs link patients and carers to sources of support in their local community, has the potential to reduce the demand for health services and is improving the lives of patients with long-term health conditions, researchers found. The services, piloted across Rotherham, South Yorkshire, could also save the local NHS up to £1.1m over the next five years, researchers leading the three-year evaluation into the project have found. A team from Hallam's Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) found voluntary sector-run activities for those with complex long-term health conditions could help reduce hospital stays and improve social and emotional well-being. In Rotherham alone, more than 2,000 patients with long-term health conditions, and at risk of hospital admission, have been referred for a social prescription. All 36 GP practices in the town have signed up to the project. The local voluntary sector runs more than 20 projects ranging from art, befriending and discussion groups to tai chi and the service has now been extended to those discharged from community mental health services. In a new report published this week, researchers reveal that non-elective inpatient episodes reduced by seven per cent non-elective inpatient episodes reduced by 11 per cent Accident and Emergency attendances reduced by 17 per cent. The evaluation found even better reductions in those aged 80 and under, and for those who engaged with voluntary sector-led activities over a sustained period. 82 per cent of service users, regardless of age or gender, also reported a positive change in their well-being within four months of being issued with a social prescription. The report was commissioned by Voluntary Action Rotherham and NHS Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group and carried out by Sheffield Hallam's Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR). Chris Dayson from CRESR said: -Rotherham is one of the largest and most well-developed examples of social prescribing in the UK and the findings are really positive. We've been able to identify reductions in patients' use of key hospital services in the 12 months following their referral to the pilot. "Alongside this we have seen improvements in patients' well-being, confidence and independence, with fewer people feeling socially isolated and lonely. "In the longer term the outcomes from social prescribing could help the public sector realise savings of more than £1million, more than covering the cost of delivering the service. "We are hoping that, as the evidence base grows for involving the local voluntary and community sector in supporting people with long-term health issues, the health and well-being benefits will become more apparent." Janet Wheatley, chief executive of Voluntary Action Rotherham, said: -The Rotherham Social Prescribing Service is showing the vital role that the voluntary and community sector plays in the emerging health and care landscape. "By linking patients and carers with sources of information, practical help and support in their own communities it is enabling people to be in control of their care arrangements. It is increasing patient choice and control, reducing dependence and increasing independence, reducing hospital admissions and A&E attendances." "Fundamentally it is improving the outcomes for patients and in many cases quite simply transforming their lives for the better." Sarah Whittle, assistant chief officer of NHS Rotherham CCG, said: --We are extremely pleased with the outcomes from the evaluation of the Social Prescribing Service. The service is a win-win for all involved it's a win for us as it reduces admissions into hospital; it's a win for the voluntary and community sector as it helps them to be more sustainable and most importantly it's a win for patients and carers. They tell us they love it as it improves their quality of life, reduces social isolation and moves them from dependence to independence.

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