KEIGHLEY and Craven GPs are pioneering moves to prescribe patients with social activities rather than pills.

Surgeries in the Modality Partnership have already achieved success offering non-medical measures to some people to improve their health and well-being.

‘Social prescribing’ is often carried out by specially-trained link workers in medical practices to reduce the need for all patients to see a GP.

Patients can instead be signposted to voluntary and community groups for activities such as volunteering, group learning, gardening, befriending, sports, arts, exercise groups or healthy-eating advice.

The government last month announced NHS England would recruit 1,000 extra social prescribers over the next two years, with the long-term aim of handling around 900,000 patient appointments year.

Bill Graham, head of Innovation Community Practice with Modality Partnership, recently wrote a blog about the pros and cons of social prescribing.

Modality is a ‘super partnership’ that includes the GP practices at Cross Hills, Farfield, Holycroft, Kilmeny, Haworth, and Oakworth, as well as the Fisher Medical Centre in Skipton and Gargrave.

Mr Graham said: “We have a team of social prescribers working across most General Practices.

“They offer links and support into the fantastic local menu of groups and activities available, and will offer non-medical support to patients. We hope to be able to expand this work in the near-future.”

Mr Graham said social prescribing could be much more than a ‘signposting’ role, by increasing the health of patients in primary care by offering them support within the community.

Mr Graham said social prescribing recognised that health was determined by a range of social, environmental and economic factors.

He said: “It marks a significant shift in attitudes towards well-being and mental health.

“By giving patients a choice of non-medical pathways to help them live a healthier life, the ‘social prescriber’ can act as a connector between residents and communities, strengthening community connections and overall wellbeing.”

Mr Graham said there had very impressive results for individuals and local communities, with reduced GP appointments and better outcomes for patients.

He said that in Airedale there had has been a 29 per cent reduction in the rate of GP attendances and a 52 per cent reduction in the rate of Emergency Department attendances.

He added: “It’s clear that social prescribing can have a truly positive impact on people’s lives, and it acts as a preventative mechanism for poor health.