Desang Diabetes magazine article on social prescribing

28

LIVING

Social Prescribing

What is it, and why do we need it. By Lois Rogers.

When the NHS was set

up in 1948, demand

for healthcare was

expected to fall as the

population was cured of infection.

In fact, chronic conditions such as

diabetes, heart disease, lung disease

and the complications of obesity

have meant the service is facing ever

increasing levels of need.

More than 70 years on, NHS

leaders are realising that new

approaches are needed to tackle

these problems and a new drive has

begun to treat the NHS as a national

wellness service, rather than a

national illness service. Doctors are

being encouraged to introduce 'social

prescribing,' a range of diet, exercise

and mental wellbeing services to

provide people with better tools to

stay fit.

The NHS Long Term Plan

published in January 2019, aimed to

recruit 1,000 new social prescribing

'link workers', with a view to referring

at least 900,000 people for nonmedical

treatment by 2024. This in

turn, is part of the drive towards the

NHS offering 'universal personalised

care,' to at least 2.5m people by 2024.

The intention is to give people choice

and control over the way their care

is planned and delivered, focusing on

their individual priorities.

The department of health says

it has invested £70m in expanding

weight management programmes and

more than £1m over the next three

years to trial social prescribing in

general practice.

Novel ideas

These initiatives include a variety

of novel ideas. A year-long NHS

soup-and-shakes programme has

proved that in some cases people

can be helped to reverse their

Type 2 diabetes. Early data showed

participants lost more than a stone

in a month and two stone in three

months, with half of them able to

achieve remission of their Type 2

diabetes after one year.

A 'green prescribing' plan

has shown that contact with the

natural world improves mental

health, while weekly exercise

classes for the over 65s have shown

dramatic improvements in mobility,

independence and wellbeing.

The idea of prescribing exercise is

not new, though it does seem that fit

doctors are more likely to produce fit

patients. "Practitioners who smoke,

do little exercise, or eat unhealthy

food are less likely to counsel about

these areas, while doctors with a

healthy lifestyle counsel more often

on lifestyle habits," said the authors

of a study published in the British

Journal of General Practice in 2018.

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