Practices are to be offered social prescribing specialists to take on the task of pointing patients towards healthy activities, it was announced today.
The NHS in England plans to recruit 1,000 of these link workers to support practices with social prescribing, it was reported. Recruits may be unqualified but will undergo intensive training. They will be recruited for listening skills, empathy and ability to provide support to patients.
They are to be in place, working in primary care networks, within two years, according to NHS England – and the target is that they will handle 900,000 appointments a year by 2024.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said this would put a “new army of workers” in practices.
He said: “This is prevention in action and will help to combat some of the scourges of modern life, from loneliness to mental health, or over-medicalisation. Personalised care is the future and there’s growing evidence that supporting people to access community services and activities, such as chess clubs or dance classes, has the power to improve people’s health and wellbeing.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Often the underlying reason a patient visits their GP is not medical, yet it can have a considerable impact on their health and wellbeing.
“Ensuring that GPs and our teams have good, easy access to people who can link patients with classes or groups in the community and other non-NHS services, that could potentially be of far more benefit than any medicine, is something the College has long called-for, so the focus on this is incredibly welcome.”