Social prescribing service gears up against COVID-19 related anxieties and loneliness

By Anaka Nair
March 20 2020, 11.00

Merton Voluntary Service Council (MVSC) celebrated its third year of social prescribing successes at Wilson Health and Wellbeing Hub on Social Prescribing Day.

The Mitcham hospital hosted guest speakers, Q&A panels and workshops on social prescribing as the nationwide day deemed the service vital during social distancing and self-isolation. 

Merton social prescribing manager, Ben Halschka, said: “The coronavirus outbreak will worsen anxiety and leave people more isolated.

“GPs, nurses and social workers are overloaded. Social prescribers offer crucially needed time with patients to listen objectively and speak freely about complex issues. 

“Our social prescribing link workers can spend up to 6 hours with each referral to diagnose any further underlying conditions.” 

According to NHS estimates, approximately 20% of daily GP appointments are for non-medical reasons. 

GPs and healthcare professionals can refer people to social prescribing services for collaborative and emotional support, says NHS England. 

Social prescribing is a non-clinical alternative where link workers can co-produce solutions with patients suffering from non-medical conditions.

People who are lonely or isolated in particular can receive access to social organisations such as community groups, food banks and volunteering. 

At the Southbank Centre, The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) also outlined its vision for ‘a social revolution in wellbeing’. 

NASP will invest £1 million into services in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Garden Scheme over the next three years.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, spoke at the NASP event on March 12 about the importance of social prescribing in the national effort against coronavirus. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of NASP, also spoke about the need to strengthen communities at a time of social distancing. 

Merton Social Prescribing will also continue working with patient referrals by undertaking more remote appointments on telephone and video calls.

Social prescribing referrals are advised to call link workers first and avoid visiting GP surgeries while exhibiting severe virus symptoms.  

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