Faced with increasing demands and reducing budgets for heath and social care, a small but growing number of pioneering clinical commissioning groups and local authorities are developing preventative strategies based on proven community-based initiatives.
Whilst traditional healthcare systems centre on the commissioning of drugs, beds and “reactive” therapies, the concept of commissioning art, dance, music, group activities and other community-based non-medical interventions is both unfamiliar and untested for many commissioners.
However, there is a growing belief that “social prescribing” (in its broadest sense) can be more widely accepted and commissioned if it shares a common language with the established commissioning models. Specifically, by demonstrating the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of “social” interventions and delivery systems on individual patients and entire cohorts, we believe that health commissioners will be more willing to invest in community-based models in return for improved health outcomes, lower demand and reduced financial burdens across the primary and secondary care systems.
The physical and mental health improvements demonstrated in pioneering “compassionate communities” (such as Frome in Somerset) and in the growing body of evidence supporting social prescribing could be deemed to show the same effects as a pharmaceutical drug and / or therapy through the natural release of endorphins and dopamine. Many case studies (including the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing report, July 2017) show a range of improvements in physical and mental health and wellbeing that result from the interaction of one person with another or with a group. It is clear that the simple act of showing empathy and care, providing support and encouragement, enables a patient’s own body chemistry to produce positive pharmacological effects without the need for costly (and potentially addictive) prescription medicines. When the same responses are experienced by the care-giver, the collective value and benefits are multiplied and enhanced.
Policy makers, budget holders, public sector directorates and community-based health advocates have the opportunity to work together to improve patient outcomes, reduce pressures on A&E departments, improve GP practice time and improve budget effectiveness. By discussing and demonstrating the pharmacological effects and therapeutic benefits of such initiatives, we all have a real opportunity to bring “social prescribing” and “compassionate communities” into the mainstream and improve the physical and mental health of individuals, families and whole communities.
If you are a commissioner, voluntary sector partner or impact investor looking to establish and support preventative strategies for social prescribing and community-based health initiatives, please call 01865 358170.