Published: 11 December 2023
Increasing numbers of people in Wales are being referred to social prescribing services, through which they can be supported to access activities like exercise classes, gardening, and art groups in their community to better manage their health and wellbeing.
Social prescribing is an umbrella term that describes a person-centred approach to connecting people to local community assets. It can help empower individuals to recognise their own needs, strengths, and personal assets and to connect with their own communities for support with their personal health and wellbeing.
Social prescribing can be used to help a person improve their physical, mental or social wellbeing, and may provide a continuum of support and play a preventative role.
Recent data shows there has been a clear year-on-year increase in referrals and use of social prescribing from around 10,000 in 2018 to 2019 to just over 25,000 in 2020 to 2021. Evidence suggests social prescribing reduces footfall to GP surgeries by 15 to 28 per cent, with around 20 per cent of patients contacting their GP regarding social problems.
Today, the Welsh Government launched a National Framework for Social Prescribing, to provide a common set of standards and ensure consistent delivery of social prescribing, regardless of the setting. Public Health Wales supported the development of the framework and produced two key components:
Social Prescribing Case Studies, showcasing experiences of social prescribing across Wales from individuals, social prescribing practitioners, referrers to social prescribing, and those working with community assets;
A Glossary of Terms for Social Prescribing, developed in collaboration with Wales School for Social Prescribing Research (WSSPR), University of South Wales, which aims to provide clarity on terminology and facilitate communication and understanding among professionals and the public.
Dr Amrita Jesurasa, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at Public Health Wales, said: “Evidence shows that a broad range of social, economic and environmental factors have a very real impact on the wellbeing of individuals and there will be times when people might need extra support with a wide range of issues affecting their mental, physical or social wellbeing.
“Social prescribing helps connect people to groups and services in the community to support them with lots of different aspects of their life. For example, to reduce loneliness, to access physical health opportunities or to help manage debt. Through these preventative approaches, individuals are empowered to make their own choices and engage more with their community, and evidence suggests that the pressure on primary care services could also potentially be reduced through use of social prescribing”.