An independent national academy will support healthcare professionals in prescribing arts, sport and leisure activities to more patients, the health secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
The academy, which was developed in partnership with Sport England, Arts Council England and other voluntary sector organisations, will be given £5m of government funding and headed up by Helen Stokes-Lampard, the outgoing chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
The government said it will work to standardise the quality and range of social prescribing available across the country; champion the benefits of social prescribing; build the evidence base behind it; and share and develop best practice in this area.
The scheme builds on commitments laid out in the ‘NHS long-term plan’ to refer at least 900,000 people to social prescribing within five years, with the help of 1,000 social prescribing link workers, starting in 2020/2021.
“Social prescribing has always been so close to my heart as a practising GP,” said Stokes-Lampard.
“I’m looking forward to starting work with colleagues from so many sectors to bring social prescribing into the mainstream, to train and educate social prescribers of the future and to establish a great evidence base and raise the profile of this fantastic initiative.”
Jo Churchill, minister for primary care, public health and prevention, said the role of social prescribing in keeping people healthy “should not be underestimated”.
“It can keep people better engaged in being healthier, happier and participating more in their communities, while potentially reducing the need to see a GP,” she said.