NHS Property Services (NHSPS) will invest £2m in social prescribing initiatives in 2021/22, it has announced.
NHSPS said the investment will help the NHS meet the Long Term Plan’s goal to refer at least 900,000 people to social prescribing initiatives by 2024.
The plan also set a target of ensuring more than 1,000 trained social prescribing link workers – funded as part of the GP contract – were in place by the end of 2020/21, rising further by 2023/24.
NHSPS said it had also redeveloped 21 social prescribing sites to provide a range of services, including mental health services, baby banks and wraparound services, sensory rooms and gardens, plus community allotments and kitchen space for local charities.
The organisation has worked with NHS stakeholders, constructions and local organisations to redesign and improve the vacant spaces ready to offer patient care, it said.
Alison Davies, head of corporate social responsibility at NHSPS, said the Long Term Plan’s goal ‘couldn’t be more important’ in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Many people are experiencing extreme isolation and loneliness, with a significant increase in mental health issues among the population,’ she said.
‘Delivering on the NHS’ social prescribing goal couldn’t be more important as we move into a post-lockdown society, and I am proud of our teams who have ensured we can provide a variety of additional services to our communities.’
Mental health post-pandemic
The redeveloped sites include one site in the south east that has been repurposed as a community café and charity shop, open to provide support for patients experiencing domestic abuse, financial issues, or problems with mental health.
Another unit within Hunter Street Medical Centre in North London has been fully redeveloped to create six counselling rooms for the mental health charity The Listening Place.
Laura Fach, new site PM for The Listening Place, said: ‘We are now open seven days a week in Hunter Street and our visitors and volunteers have told us what a calm and welcoming place our third floor is for them.’
She added that the charity has been able to almost double their capacity for face-to-face appointments.
Other redevelopments include an onsite kitchen in Axminster Community Hospital and outdoor social and exercise spaces in Offerton Learning Disability Resource Centre.
In November 2020, The King’s Fund published a report outlining how the NHS could make better use of its facilities to support social prescribing.
It said of social prescribing services: ‘The conclusion is not that we should try to cram as many social services as possible into primary care facilities, only that these can offer a useful site for some services, for some people, in some localities.’