The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) was launched in October 2019. This independent charity was developed in a cross-government partnership including Sport England, Natural England, and Arts Council England. In part, it was set up to fight the rise in mental health cases; pre-Covid, a survey of GPs revealed that two in five appointments involved mental health. Considering the last year of lockdowns, those figures are likely to have worsened.
With virtual wards and at-home antibiotic kits part of £160m funding to cut NHS waiting lists, I am hoping there will also be an investment in social prescribing. It is certainly welcome news that hundreds of people experiencing poor mental health will be introduced to the natural beauty of wetlands under a “blue prescribing” scheme. Hopefully, this can be the catalyst needed to see many more schemes across the country.
One of our Award Ambassadors, Sean’s Place, has been using fishing to help men suffering from mental health problems. They saw that taking to the water with a fishing rod, while enjoying the great outdoors has significant mental health benefits, including; reduced stress, increased concentration, boosted mood, and overall improvement of self-esteem.
Social prescribing also includes giving people access to participate in sport and art. Grassroots sport provides the opportunity for millions, to enjoy the simple pleasure of taking part. But it also provides much more than that. Grassroots sport and recreation is a means of delivering a much wider social impact: it helps people to lead healthier lives, develop new skills for employment, and to engage with their local communities.
Social prescribing relies on local organisations providing activities and services to local people, it is fundamental to the collective mental and physical health of communities but it can also be a key part of revitalising local communities in a post-pandemic Britain.
There are thousands of organisations that can offer these vital services, organisations, that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic as they rely on social interaction. Investment in social prescribing could not only be a very welcome addition to the experience economy it could be the solid foundation on which mental health services in local communities are built.
Successful implementation of these projects need to understand that communities are diverse, complex ecosystems that can only succeed if a vast amount of activities are provided to offer the variety of activities needed to treat people as individuals.
I was very fortunate to write a plan, in collaboration with fibodo, that was published by the House Of Lords. In it, we share ideas on how technology can be used to best utilise existing local assets to build healthier communities. The report can be downloaded here.
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