Speaking to the House of Commons health select committee on Tuesday Mr Hunt said GPs and commissioners in some places were taking a more holistic approach to healthcare to tackle underlying issues such as poor housing conditions and loneliness.
‘GPs are taking a broader view of what the best thing to prescribe is,' he told MPs. ‘So I think we are seeing a big growth in social prescriptions where GPs are saying that actually the root cause of this person’s problems is isolation and loneliness, so effectively what I’m going to prescribe is that you join a lunch club or something like that to make sure you have company in your life.
‘I think we need to be open minded to CCGs who say actually this is the kind of thing that is going to help deal with the root causes.’
Mr Hunt added: ‘There are other CCGs that look at housing problems, that have been sorting out the damp in someone’s flat because they realise that’s the root cause of some of their problems they face. So I think the NHS is taking a more holistic view of what it takes to address people’s medical problems that it did before and I don’t think it’s something we would want to stand in the way of.’
The health secretary had been quizzed by David Tredinnick MP (Con, Bosworth) about greater use of homeopathy and acupuncture in the NHS.
Mr Hunt said: ‘With respect to whether or not an individual patient receives that treatment, that, in the end, is a matter for their GP.
‘There are GPs who prescribe homeopathy and who prescribe acupuncture. The system we have is we allow GPs to prescribe whatever they think is in the clinical interest of their own patients.’
Earlier in the hearing NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens confirmed that £250m for GP premises for 2015/16 announced by the chancellor last week should be allocated by the end of March.