By Kenny Butler, Head of Health and Wellbeing Development, ukactive
As a leisure operator or supplier reading this headline, you may be wondering what social prescribing is, what is so important about NHS England’s Long Term Plan, and what it has to do with the leisure sector.
Quite simply, you could offer a service or programme that could help people living with physical and mental health problems. In other words, the leisure sector can be the ‘frontline of the NHS’. NHS England has included this aspect of prevention in its 10-year Long Term Plan.
We all know that physical activity can prevent many of the lifestyle-associated diseases and conditions that place such a burden on our NHS, from type-2 diabetes and obesity to some cancers.
Social prescribing essentially involves helping patients to live fitter, healthier lives and helps to combat anxiety, loneliness and depression by signposting them to community services which also deliver social interaction.
It may include opportunities for arts and creativity, physical activity, new skills, volunteering, mutual aid, befriending and self-help, as well as support with benefits, employment, housing, debt, legal advice or parenting problems.
Being active is a key component of social prescribing that keeps people moving, connected, able to work, able to volunteer and getting out of the house.
For example, people who are susceptible to falls might be signposted to a dance class to help improve their balance or people with arthritis might be referred to specific group exercise programme.
It is an innovative and growing movement, with the potential to reduce the financial burden on the NHS and particularly on primary care.
Our sector is well placed to support this movement.
The recruitment of 1,000 link workers is part of NHS England’s plans to expand social prescribing and give people time to talk about what matters to them and support them to find suitable activities that are personalised.
This could be a group activity in your space. By 2023-24, social prescribers are expected to be handling around 900,000 patient appointments a year. Many of these patients may choose to treat or manage their disease with physical activity.
ukactive is committed to working with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, ukactive members and partners to ensure the sport and physical activity sector is empowered to support social prescribing.
The majority of the population lives within 20 minutes of ukactive’s 4,000 members. By diversifying your programmes and people to an ageing population with multiple long-term conditions, and connecting to social prescribing and its link workers, you can make it attractive for them to refer people to your facilities. No matter how unconventional it may seem, some of the sector’s under-utilised but well-located facilities, combined with skilled staff, can become the perfect place to meet people’s healthcare needs.
We need to develop good relationships with link workers as there is much to learn from each other. Our sector, personal trainers and instructors can give link workers viable options for physical activity referrals.
For everything you need to know on social prescribing resources and events click here.
If you would like to know how your organisation can get involved, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org