Northamptonshire to get first social prescribing service in England

Northamptonshire is to be the first area in England to introduce a social prescribing service, an integrated cross-sector service across the county.

The new social prescribing service will be the first county-wide service in England
The new social prescribing service will be the first county-wide service in England

Social prescribing helps people to access non-medical services to help manage their own physical, mental health and wellbeing and make sustainable lifestyle changes.

Cllr Ian Morris, Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: "Evidence shows that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing."

Through social prescribing, people work with a specialist 'link worker' who can refer them to relevant non-medical services in their community, like leisure activities, social groups and healthy lifestyle advice.

The integrated programme was approved by Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NCC's cabinet on Tuesday, December 17.

The programme was proposed by Northamptonshire Health and Care Partnership (NHCP) and its approval paves the way for a £3.57m outcomes grant from the government's Life Chances Fund.

NHCP has also worked with the social enterprise Bridges Outcomes Partnerships on the programme and has helped the programme secure funding for the next five years, with a potential total investment of £14m.

Toby Sanders, joint chief executive of the Northamptonshire CCGs, said: "This is a momentous decision for Northamptonshire.

We know that the healthcare we receive is just one of a number of factors that influence our overall health and wellbeing – and poor health is actually much more likely to be the result of things like the lifestyles we lead, the environments we live in and the stresses of daily life.

"Many of the issues that lead to ill health can’t be fixed by medicines, so it’s hugely important that we have the right support in place to give people more control over their own health and wellbeing and manage their needs in ways that work for them and are available in their own communities."

Social prescribing is one of the national priorities in the NHS' long term plan and Northamptonshire will be the first area to implement it county-wide.

Some social link prescribers are already working with GP practices and more will be recruited.

NHCP will work closely with Northamptonshire’s voluntary and community sector to local services can meet the needs of people who need to access them.

The new service will focus on those who can benefit the most from social prescribing, like those with mental health issues, those living with multiple long-term health conditions, carers and people in social isolation.

Cllr Ian Morris added: "We’re delighted we now have the go-ahead to begin implementing Northamptonshire’s new social prescribing service in the New Year, and people can expect to start to see the first evidence of its county-wide availability by the summer of 2020."