New standards and guidance on how socially prescribed activities, including exercise classes, gardening clubs and art groups should be delivered across Wales are being developed to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing and ease pressures on the NHS.
Covid has had a profound impact on health and well-being, and social prescribing can play a key link in people accessing community-based, non-clinical support that can provide a boost to individuals.
The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle has today (Thursday 28th July) launched a new consultation on social prescribing, which will seek people’s views to plan a future framework for non-clinical, community-based support, which can include a range of activities, each playing a role in an early preventative approach by enhancing people’s well-being.
The new framework will set out standards, guidance and actions developed at a national level to ensure a consistency of delivery across Wales.
In Wales there has been year on year increase in referrals and use of social prescribing over the last three years. Figures show a rise from over 10,000 people benefiting from social prescribing in 2018/2019 to over 25,000 in 2020/2021.
Through its early preventative approach, social prescribing could help ease the pressure on more front-line specialist services. Evidence from the University of South Wales suggest that social prescribing reduces the footfall to GP surgeries by 15% to 28%. Another study also found that patients used primary care services less, with a reduction of 25% in appointments.
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, said:
“Social prescribing continues to benefit people’s wellbeing, particularly their mental wellbeing, helping people to stay connected with their community and learn new skills. The aim of this consultation is to secure a common understanding of social prescribing and a consistent approach across Wales to its delivery. Current evidence shows that there is variation across the country of access to social prescribing and awareness of non-clinical support available.
In addition, I want the national framework to embed social prescribing services where they either do not exist or need to be developed further and identify those areas where further action can be taken.”
One centre that is helping to deliver social prescribing services in Cardiff is ACE – Action in Caerau and Ely. They work with local GPs and other partners to support people to access the range of activities on their doorstep; work with the community to develop a range of health, wellbeing and support activities; and host other groups and organisations at their community building, the Dusty Forge.
Hazel Cryer, Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator at ACE:
“Social Prescribing allows us to reach out to new people through our local GP practices, bringing more people from our local community together to support each other and build new links and friendships. We would love to see social prescribing grow and develop across Wales through this framework.”
One project that partners with ACE is Grow Well, run by local charity Grow Cardiff. This is a therapeutic community garden group, welcoming people of all ages. The group meets in three sites across South West Cardiff throughout the week to support health and well-being through growing, sharing skills, engaging with nature, friendship and food.
Claire Terry, Grow Well Project Co-ordinator, Grow Cardiff:
“Having seen the amazing changes that a project like this can make in someone’s life, it would be fantastic to see a network of community gardens across Wales connected up with health care through social prescribing services. We fully support this launch today”.