The £3.6m funding will help GPs prescribe activities such as gardening and exercises classes to improve patients’ mental health
"As a frontline GP, I know that if someone comes to me because they are lonely or isolated, social prescribing is likely to be the best support I can offer.” Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair, National Academy of Social Prescribing
The government has awarded £3.6m to the National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP) to support mental wellbeing.
The grant will help NASP to build on schemes such as the Thriving Communities Fund, which has established 36 projects helping more than 10,000 people.
Social prescribing involves prescribing community-led social activities to help people experiencing conditions such as grief, addiction, dementia and loneliness. This could include, for example, gardening clubs for people to socialise and learn new skills, exercise classes to build confidence and become healthier, or financial advice for people with money worries. The idea is that all these types of activities can reduce loneliness and boost people’s sense of mental wellbeing.
Helen Whatley, the minister of state for care, said: “Social prescribing is an unsung hero in getting thousands of people the support they need to get through hard times – whether it be low self-esteem, dementia or loneliness.
“I’m really pleased that we’ve agreed new funding for the National Academy of Social Prescribing, so it can continue the valuable work it does day in and day out to support the health of the country.”
Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the NASP, said: “We are delighted to have continued support from the Department for Health and Social Care, in recognition of the positive impact that social prescribing is having on the health and wellbeing of our communities. As a frontline GP, I know that if someone comes to me because they are lonely or isolated, social prescribing is likely to be the best support I can offer.”
Stokes-Lampard added that over the past two years, NASP had “funded remarkable social prescribing projects, published compelling evidence summaries and have signed up 25 countries to develop social prescribing services across the world.”
Vicki Nash, head of policy at the mental health charity Mind, has welcomed the funding. She said: “We are pleased to hear that the UK government are committing to funding social prescribing projects across the country. Mind has been running social prescribing in Wales for the past two years and our data shows that it has a really positive impact for people with mild-to-moderate mental health problems. In the Wales pilot, 95% of people who were helped by social prescribing said that they had achieved at least some of the goals they wanted to achieve.”
Although this is a relatively small sum of money, it nonetheless provides a welcome boost to an important initiative. At a time when rates of mental illness are reaching a new high, it’s important to investigate ways of improving people’s mental health without recourse to medication. The evidence suggests that activities such as exercise and gardening, particularly when carried out with other people, can make a real difference to the mental wellbeing of people with mild-to-moderate mental health problems.