New ‘Social Prescribing’ Service to Improve Local Health

Individuals in South and East Leeds are to benefit from a new NHS ‘social prescribing’ service, to be delivered by a partnership of local third sector organisations.

men and women stood in a line smiling

Individuals in South and East Leeds are to benefit from a new NHS ‘social prescribing’ service to act as a single point of access to a wide range community groups and activity in an easy, accessible way which aims to reduce social isolation and improve health and wellbeing.

NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for planning, buying and managing healthcare for more than 250,000 people, has announced the innovative service will be delivered by mental health charity, Leeds Mind, working in partnership with  Touchstone, BARCA, Leeds Irish Health and Homes, Hamara and Better Leeds Communities (BLC).

The winning bid was identified following a rigorous tender process which was assessed by a panel of health experts and patient representatives. ‘Social prescribing’ enables patients to refer themselves, or to receive a referral through health professionals (such as a GP), using one telephone number/website for help and support to access a wide range voluntary sector projects and groups in their area.

The aim is to help patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, prevent illness or manage existing health problems and long term conditions.  The service will offer an opportunity to tackle common health problems at the root cause or in a way that may not be solved through traditional medical routes alone. It might mean, for example, that patients at risk of obesity are signed up to local exercise activities, that elderly patients who are lonely join local social activities, or that patients with mental health difficulties access creative or gardening groups to help improve self-esteem and wellbeing. All activity will be centred around the individuals needs and a set of personal goals they want to achieve. Similar schemes in Rotherham and Bradford have been shown to reduce social isolation, enable patients to better manage their own conditions, support people to make health lifestyle changes, reduce demand for GP appointments and have a particularly positive impact on deprived communities.

Dr Andy Harris, Clinical Chief Officer for Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are delighted to announce that Leeds Mind, Touchstone, BARCA, Leeds Irish Health and Homes, Hamara and Better Leeds Communities (BLC) will be working with us to deliver our ‘social prescribing’ service in South and East Leeds. The CCG is continuously striving to reduce health inequalities that exist among our communities.

This represents an important step towards us achieving this aim by tackling a number of significant health challenges that we know particularly affect our local population, such as social isolation, mental health problems, obesity, high rates of smoking and alcohol dependency. Helen Kemp, CEO of Leeds Mind, said: “We are really excited to be working with NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver social prescribing. Our partnership has a wealth of experience in the area and we understand the health challenges faced by the community. We are looking forward to working with local people to enable them to manage their own health conditions better.”  

The service is expected to launch in November and an online portal will allow patients to access information and refer themselves directly. For further information, please contact Zoe Ward, Senior Communications Officer on zoeward@nhs.net or 0113 28431727.