How GPs are using social prescribing to tackle health inequalities

GPs in London have referred more than 700 patients to walking clubs, ballroom dancing groups and lunchclubs as part of a social prescribing scheme.

Dr Patrick Hutt
Dr Patrick Hutt

Speaking at the RCGP annual conference 2015 in Glasgow, RCGP health inequalities group chairman Dr Patrick Hutt pointed to data showing the extent to which where people live in the UK affects their life expectancy, mortality, social deprivation and years of life with illness.

GPs could not simply prescribe statins to tackle the effects of poverty, he warned. 'We should be doing something more. Social prescribing has been touted as a potential solution.'

Dr Hutt said GPs in his area of north London had decided to do 'something big and bold', and had set up three consortia with 23 practices involved.

Read more: what does social prescribing mean for GPs?

Teams of social prescribing co-ordinators funded by local CCGs are now signposting patients to around 80 organisations, including a city farm, walking clubs, ballroom dancing and other schemes.

'We had more than 700 referrals in the first 18 months of the scheme,' Dr Hutt told the conference.

GPs need to find out what services are available in their local community, he said. Responses from patients referred in the Camden scheme have been extremely positive, with some crediting the scheme as transforming their lives.

Health inequality

Dr Hutt said the scheme had yet to gather quantitative data to demonstrate the impact of social prescribing definitively, but that this process was 'in its infancy'.

However, he warned that a key problem for social prescribing schemes was that organisations patients were referred to under the scheme were constantly 'popping up, then going under when their funding dries up'.

It's a real Wild West,' Dr Hutt said. 'Volunteer co-ordinators signposting patients to services really need to know what's out there.'

Photo: Pete Hill

Register your interest now in the 2016 RCGP annual conference in Harrogate and only pay the current 2015 delegate rate

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Vaccination tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK have led the largest-ever NHS vaccination programme in response...

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall

Hand PCNs control of primary care infrastructure funding, says RCGP

CCG funding for primary care infrastructure should be handed to PCNs when the bodies...

Professor Martin Marshall and Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall

Talking General Practice speaks to RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul

In-house review not enough to stop 'unjust' GMC referrals, warns BMA

Doctors' leaders have repeated calls for a full independent review of the GMC referral...


How widespread is long COVID in the UK?

Millions of people in the UK are living with long COVID. GPonline looks at the data...

COVID-19 vaccination sign

GP contract for autumn COVID-19 booster campaign due shortly

GP practices in England will be invited shortly to sign up for the COVID-19 autumn...