A social prescribing approach to healthcare is required for Scotland’s coronavirus recovery, a commission has stated.
The Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission, established by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), has issued a new report suggesting non-medical approaches could alleviate pressure on the NHS and other public services in the wake of the pandemic.
Social prescribing – also known as community referral – allows GPs, nurses and other healthcare workers to help patients away from health services and instead use community organisations, local support groups or holistic hubs.
The commission’s report suggests community partners can be adequately resourced to deliver such a tailored support across the country.
Caroline Gardner, chairwoman of the RSE’s Post-Covid-Commission Inclusive Public Service Working Group, said: “Social prescribing puts people at the centre of their own care.
“For social prescribing to become more than the sum of its parts, it needs to be embedded systematically across the whole of Scotland, matched with real leadership and resources.
“The report’s recommendations around awareness-raising, supporting a range of tailored options, resourcing the whole ‘system’, with improvements in accessibility and inclusion; must be underpinned by mechanisms for delivery.
“This cannot be a report that is allowed to sit on a shelf.
“The time is right for it to be enacted with and for the people of Scotland, and the RSE’s Post-Covid will be pressing for change.”
According to the report, between 25% and 50% of GP appointments in Scotland focus on non-medical issues such as social isolation, financial struggles, and bereavement.
One study found 78% of GPs reported prescribing antidepressants, despite believing an alternative treatment would be more appropriate, but other approaches were either not available or had long waiting lists.
Frances Simpson, Support in Mind Scotland chief executive, said: “Research conducted with those with lived experience of poor mental health clearly shows that they looked for support in their communities in a non-clinical, low-level setting, pre-crisis.
“Steps have been taken towards social prescribing being used across Scotland, but this report clearly states that there is much more to be done.
“There are many more opportunities for health professionals to work in partnership with individuals, communities, businesses and the charity sector to support people through social prescribing.
“Support in Mind Scotland is keen to use its links with partners to learn from this report and build a diverse network of social prescribing led by the needs of individuals in different areas of Scotland.”