The Kings Fund in 2017 reported that there is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes, including helping to alleviate depression and anxiety.
It is anticipated that a short inquiry will allow Committee Members to discuss the role of social prescribing for sport and physical activity being key contributors to preventative self-care for health and wellbeing. It will allow consideration of some of the barriers to and drawbacks of social prescribing as a means to increase exercise and sporting participation levels. It will also complement the ongoing inquiry into Primary Care by considering the role of the GP and the multi-disciplinary team in encouraging better self-care and higher levels of physical activity.
'Social prescribing' has been advocated and used at least since the 1990s, and has become more widely used in Scotland with the establishment of Community Links Workers (CLWs). The Scottish Government has been committeed to a GP Link Worker Programme since pilots in 2014, and in 2016 the SNP made a manifesto commitment:
'Scotland's most deprived communities need additional support, so we will recruit at least 250 Community Link Workers to work in GP surgeries and direct people to local services and support.'
The Memorandum of Understanding, which is aligned to the new GMS contract provides more detail about the multi-disciplinary team, aimed at reducing the workload of GPs, and includes reference to CLWs.
The implementation of CLWs within primary care and community facilities recognises that some people approach GPs and other health professionals when the cause of their distress or problem might not be clinical in nature. CLWs are in place to support and signpost people to more appropriate services and sources of support such as debt advice organisations, befriending schemes or walking groups for example.
It should be noted that social prescribing in Scotland does not tend to be used to encourage people to be more actuve per se, but to improve more general heath and mental wellbeing, so can include referrals to many different sorts of activities.
The work to develop the role of CLWs in Scotland is being led by NHS Scotland's Public Health Network (ScotPHN).