Social Prescribing

“So how long have you been a social prescriber? “ A nurse had asked me recently after attending my chair based yoga class at the Irish centre. I looked at her puzzled and a long interesting chat followed. Unwittingly, my chair yoga class for Seniors in Lewisham has been recommended a few times by various groups in and around Lewisham hospital; the Community falls unit, post cancer treatment unit as well as Bleinhem Group. Without me having realised I had become an unofficial ‘Link worker’ for aftercare where GP’s refer sick patients to secondary care for their ongoing well-being, socially in the community network, which helps these patients after primary care has ended.

This makes total sense on many levels, what with austerity burdens increasing year on year on local councils; clamping down on every available public service while NHS is suffering under the weight of patients demands; some people are clearly just lonely, burdened by poverty or wear and tear of old age. GP’s are desperate to get people out of their clinics and back to wellness, through local networks, volunteer groups and community offerings, this is now seen as the best way forward. A recent article on GP online has talked about how the NHS plans to roll out 1000 social prescribers in next 2 years;

I first properly heard of the term Social Prescribing at a food and growing event through Sustain Web when the wonderful Maria of Sydenham Gardens and Wild Cat Wilderness held a talk on the social value of gardening for mental health, community connections, creativity and healing. She cited how back in the Victorian times, most major mental hospitals like Bedlam and Maudsley used to have huge grounds with gardens for patients to use as a holistic and necessary part of their healing process. Very obvious to us now, that gardening and working in nature of course can help improve ones well-being, I know this first hand from my own experience over the last 2 years working on my allotment. Mindfulness increases while worries, anxiety and overwhelm decreases into the peripherals when faced with tasks like weeding, clearing, planting and watering.

Thankfully Social prescribing is about community networks and linking doctors to these wonderful workers in grassroots organisations that are doing wonders with various groups in society that are often left to struggle and fend for themselves.

A whole range of classes and services such as yoga, zumba gold or art classes, reading groups, sewing and dancing can boost health and well-being more than prescribing pills or other treatments. Because at any age people need to be connected, to create, to feel like their voice and presence matters and adds value to others lives also. Which I’ve known for many years…

From my own experience with quite an ill mother for the first decade of my life; having a care team or network showed me how vital it was in maintaining good health and positivity , especially with the vulnerability after each hospital discharge. Once the primary care of hospital is over, the secondary care of the network is what keeps people from returning, building their well-being up in a preventative holistic manner.

I guess unconsciously that’s what I’ve been trying to create around myself with my chair yoga classes and creative classes and links to other local wellness groups; a social system of care that doesn’t rely on the state or on traditional over reliance of help form doctors. Empowering people often on the fringes- the elderly, the poor or those with mental health issues- to be connected to a wellness network that’s easily accessible and very within their own reach.

Social Prescribing is the future of healthcare. Wholeness through wellness through community links.