Prevention Over Cure: The United Kingdom’s investment in Social Prescribing and Integrated Care

Global health and wellbeing

With 2.1 billion people over 60, it is essential to invest in health and wellbeing across the life course to ensure more individuals enjoy healthier, happier, and more fulfilling longer lives. All countries and regions must urgently prioritise the prevention of avoidable illnesses and proactively tackle the inequalities that contribute to poor health

Social prescribing in the United Kingdom is a well-established approach that actively addresses a range of issues that impact our health and wellbeing – the wider social determinants of health. Reducing health inequalities and improving health equity are crucial to ensuring that people from all walks of life can enjoy healthy ageing. Many older individuals face precarious and limited finances, which contribute to poor physical and mental health. These challenges are often compounded by poor quality housing, inadequate diet, and increased social isolation and loneliness.

Social prescribing is becoming increasingly important as a key mechanism for primary care, general practitioners, and community services to link older individuals with services and timely support that can address their needs. It is a key component of Universal Personalised Care, connecting people with the necessary activities, groups, and services in their community to address their practical, social, and emotional needs that impact their health and wellbeing.

Social prescribing in the United Kingdom

In 2023, the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), in partnership with Independent Age, commissioned a pilot programme to understand how social prescribing can effectively engage older persons experiencing financial hardship including those from minority communities who are not currently accessing social prescribing services. These pilot programmes played a crucial role in showcasing the benefits of social prescribing. They also helped gather valuable demographic data on areas of need and mapped existing local community resources, groups, and available informal networks.

In many areas, services are fragmented, with varying payment structures, commissioning approaches, and models of health, social care and social prescribing. This fragmentation complicates efforts to have a comprehensive overview of available services and identify potential gaps in provision. It also makes it especially difficult for older persons and families to understand the range of services available, how to access them, and comprehending the roles of different health and social care professionals.

Integrated care systems (ICSs) play a central role in facilitating the sustainability of community-led organisations. They help ensure older persons and their families, through link workers, are aware of the available services. ICSs also promote collaboration among various voluntary and community organisations, and they establish alliances, commissioning models, and allocate necessary funds to support this collaboration.

Empowering through social prescribing

Social prescribing relies on the active participation of local charities and connects individuals to a wide range of support services tailored to their needs. This could include sports facilities, gyms, local charities, gardening groups, social groups, or even advice and guidance for employment or work-related issues.

Local voluntary organisations have long been the cornerstones of communities. Social prescribing provides a way to coordinate and link these resources, providing a new pathway to access support.

This approach signifies a shift towards a more proactive and holistic public health, considering social, environmental and economic factors. Through early support for individuals’ health and wellbeing, ultimately it helps to prevent avoidable problems and improving quality of life. This approach also leads to cost savings and benefits for health and social care systems.

Social prescribing allows local providers to collaborate, be creative, and adapt to local needs. This flexibility enables them to target solutions that align with local priorities. And for indivudals, it means being supported and empowered to have more control over their wellbeing.

National Innovation Centre for Ageing
The UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing is a world-leading organisation supported by an initial investment from UK Government and Newcastle University – to help co-develop and bring to market products and services which create a world in which we all live better, for longer.

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