Social Value & Health

Social prescribing

Some health bodies see social value as being closely related to ‘social prescribing’. This is clear from the examples of current health sector thinking on social value mentioned above — especially the desire to move services away from high-cost acute medical interventions to low-cost, community-based preventative and early-intervention services.

Indeed, social prescribing has been described as “a means of enabling primary care services to refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sector” (e.g. see this article on the OPM website).

Examples of socially prescribed services could include debt counselling, support groups, walking clubs, community cooking classes and one-to-one coaching.

Research by Friedli and Watson into social prescribing in the context of mental health (heavily drawn on in this CSIP report) identifies benefits in three key areas:

» Improving mental health outcomes.

» Improving community wellbeing.

» Reducing social exclusion.

But in practice very little social prescribing is actually happening , despite it being viewed positively by many GPs. For example, a recent NESTA survey of GPs found that while 90% of doctors  said they felt patients could benefit from social prescribing, only 9% of patients surveyed said they were aware of having received a social prescription.