Isolation diary: Prescribing social activities

Social prescribing is a relatively new concept within health care. It means that health professionals can refer a patient towards non-clinical activities that will improve their health, in many cases for free.

I first came aware of social prescription in Kingston when our GP referred us both to the Get Active programme, which is a 12 week course under the supervision of a trainer in a local gym.  It was free when we did it, but they now charge a small amount per session.

GPs in my NHS area can also refer a patient to one of several local slimming clubs, entitling them to 12 weeks free membership. It makes so much sense – the patient has the benefit of expert advice and a support group, and the cost to the NHS is much less than through their own programmes. To qualify you have to live in the Borough, have a BMI greater than 28 and be over 16.

These activities, and very many others, were all pulled together about 6 months ago in Connected Kingston. This is a joint project run by Kingston Council, the NHS and Kingston Voluntary Action, our umbrella organisation for the voluntary sector. Local residents can search for advice and activities on just about anything that is provided by local voluntary or public services, and health providers can prescribe quite a number of them.

To support all this, Connected Kingston Champions have been identified in GP surgeries, council offices, leisure centres and pharmacies, and they can point people towards activities to suit their needs.

I’m sure there are similar projects across the country, although our local portfolio holder for Adult Social Care reckons that Kingston is leading the way on social prescription.

Sadly, most of the activities that can be socially prescribed locally have been curtailed during lockdown. All that voluntary energy is, of course, being channelled into supporting vulnerable people during this period, but social prescribing will be running again once we get back to something approaching normal.



PS: In central Kingston there is a well-known sculpture consisting of twelve tumbling telephone boxes. It features in the logo for Connected Kingston above. We recently won a local Zoom-based quiz by identifying its official name and creator. Can you?



Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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