Bromley by Bow Centre is one of the earliest pioneers of social prescribing. On International Social Prescribing Day (18th March, 2021), we are delighted to celebrate the growth of social prescribing in the UK and internationally.
The service provides valuable wellbeing support to thousands of people. Inevitably, as it grows, myths proliferate about what social prescribing is and what it does. Here, we attempt some myth-busting:
Myth 1: Social prescribing requires a GP referral
People can improve their health and wellbeing by referring themselves for social prescribing support, as well as seeking a referral from their GP surgery or hospital. Medical notes may be updated (with your permission) to ensure care and support is joined up. See the link at the end for details on how to access our social prescribing service.
Myth 2: It’s a prescription
Social prescribing (SP) is more of an informed recommendation to a person to spend time with an experienced link worker. Together, they talk about what a person is facing, what they need and how to access the right support in the community.
Myth 3: Social prescribing is instead of medication
This is often not true. It depends on each-person’s situation. SP provides a alternative route to good health and wellbeing. It was developed in response to the fact that the majority of factors affecting mental and physical ill health are social and economic. To feel well, people need friends and a feeling of belonging, a sense of purpose, financial security, a safe home and hope for their future.
Myth 4: Social prescribing is to stop people making GP appointments
This is not true. Skilled social prescribing link workers work in teams with health professionals. Link workers are able to offer longer sessions to get to know a person and give them space to make sense of their situation and feelings. Then together they jointly develop a plan to agree next steps.
Social prescribing sessions with a link worker, and on-going support in the community, can sometimes mean people find they need to contact their GP surgery less.
Myth 5: It’s the same as counselling
No, it’s different. Although social prescribing, like counselling, provides a safe space to talk and explore issues, SP link workers are able to support people practically. They do this by helping them to access the right support for their longer-term health and wellbeing and help them exert more control over their day-to-day lives. If a link worker feels someone can benefit from counselling, they can refer into appropriate services.
Myth 6: Social prescribing is a medical service
NHS England is funding many social prescribing link workers across the country working in health and community settings, but many others are specifically-trained professionals working in the community and employed by charitable organisations.
Link workers assess the whole person and their life situation. This holistic approach means they are able to suggest a wide variety of non-medical services and methods to support people who are addressing complex issues and problems.
Myth 7: SP is mainly about social groups
Social groups are important ways of connecting people for improving mental health and addressing isolation, but there are many other things SP links people with. These include advice services, building skills, accessing training, finding work, volunteering, becoming active and being creative.
Social prescribing link workers are highly skilled at navigating all the hundreds of services on offer in communities and recommending the right ones to each individual.
Myth 8: People can find their own support services
This is true. However, it can be hard to know about the many things on offer. Most people benefit from talking first and gently ‘unpicking’ issues and difficulties. Through the link worker, people build knowledge of a whole variety of solutions and options they may not have been aware of. Social prescribing helps build confidence too; to help take important next steps.
Myth 9: There is a long waiting list
This is not true. People are contacted by a link worker within two weeks, sometimes earlier.
Rapid Response Social Prescribing has a two-day turnaround to deal with more urgent needs.
Our social prescribing team can help in three ways. By giving you time to explore what’s important to you; help you identify issues and challenges you’d like to address and then find services and activities to support you in your local community.