More than £3.6 million of government funding awarded to the National Academy of Social Prescribing to support wellbeing, including impacts of loneliness
Social prescribing helps improve mental health by connecting people to community services, reducing pressure on GPs and overprescribing
Additional funding builds on previous success, which supported 36 projects, helping more than 10,000 people
Thousands of people will continue to access innovative types of mental health support, proven to improve healthy living, reduce overprescribing and save capacity for GPs, following £3.6 million of government funding for the National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP).
Social prescribing can help those experiencing grief, addiction, dementia and loneliness through a wide range of community-led social activities, services and opportunities that have proven benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.
This could include gardening clubs for people to socialise and learn new skills, new exercise classes to build confidence and become healthier, as well as financial advice for people with money worries, among many other initiatives.
The grant will support NASP to build on its previous successes such as the Thriving Communities Fund, which has established 36 projects helping more than 10,000 people and championing local community and voluntary groups.
It has also introduced an academic collaboration to develop a robust evidence base for social prescribing and the benefits it can bring to the nation’s health. It will continue to build innovative partnerships between the health system and the voluntary sector to ensure that social prescribing reaches those most in need.
With Christmas approaching and many people feeling the negative impacts of loneliness over the festive period, social prescribing provides people with the tools to help manage their mental health and meet others in their community.
Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whatley, 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.
Minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield, said:
With many people struggling with their mental health and loneliness, particularly over the festive period, social prescribing offers a proven innovative approach to support their wellbeing.
Mental health is a priority and it’s vital people have access to the tools and support they need – this funding will provide much-needed help to people with a wide range of needs, as well as easing pressure on GPs and freeing up appointments.
In 2019, the government set out a manifesto commitment to extend social prescribing and expand the NASP.
Examples of the opportunities that could be bolstered by the funding include:
supporting NASP to continue driving forward the recommendations from the Power of Music report, using musical activities to help people with dementia
the delivery of Social Prescribing Day 2024 internationally, bringing together people across local, national and global platforms to share learning and promote successes within social prescribing
the creation of products, such as podcasts, to showcase the benefits of a connected social prescribing system
launching new social prescribing evidence reviews, which will be published in spring 2023
Professor Dame Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the National Academy for Social Prescribing, 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.
I’m incredibly proud of what NASP has achieved since its conception. Over the last couple of years, despite the limitations of the pandemic, we have funded remarkable social prescribing projects, published compelling evidence summaries and have signed up 25 countries to develop social prescribing services across the world. With this funding, we are thrilled to be able to continue this work to achieve our ultimate goal: to help people live the best lives they can.
Minister for Equalities, Stuart Andrew, said:
The festive period can be a particularly lonely time for many people given the greater emphasis on spending time with friends and family.
Through social prescribing, healthcare professionals are able to connect those in need to a range of community-led services, helping to improve mental wellbeing, build networks and reduce loneliness.
This additional £3.6 million funding for the National Academy of Social Prescribing will provide an even greater level of support for those who need it most.
James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care and Community Services at NHS England, said:
Giving people more choice and control over their own health and care was an important part of the NHS Long Term Plan, and we have already far exceeded our ambitions, providing personalised care including social prescriptions to millions of people.
This funding should put even more options and evidence into the hands of local NHS teams, to help them better support the record number of people experiencing mental health issues since the start of the pandemic.
Social prescribing can help people with a wide range of issues, including grief, and support those battling addiction.
Dale, who lives in North London, recently joined the Men’s Woodwork Group, run by St Margaret’s House – who also received a grant from the Thriving Communities fund. After leaving rehab, where he received treatment to help with alcohol and drug addiction, the group has given Dale a space to connect and be creative.
There’s a famous saying: ‘the opposite of addiction is connection’. For me, creative endeavour is key. Before I was consumed by addiction, I was a head singer in a choir but I let a lot of that lapse. I just want to engage again, have some sort of semblance of a life.
I think social prescribing is integral to what people need. You need contact with people who are different from you. Every different type of person you come across is a lesson.
The National Academy for Social Prescribing is an organisation dedicated to the advancement of social prescribing through promotion, collaboration and innovation. It works to create partnerships, across the arts, health, sports, leisure and the natural environment, alongside other aspects of our lives, to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level. It will champion social prescribing and the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.