A group of people handling objects from a Museum collection
Handling museum objects can help wellbeing. © Historic England
Handling museum objects can help wellbeing. © Historic England

Wellbeing and Social Prescribing

In 2020 Historic England commissioned SQW to explore Historic England’s potential to deliver social prescribing through its work and what might be needed for implementing these approaches. The research report delivered in November 2020 established a range of opportunities and listed its recommendations for strategic and operational actions if Historic England choses to develop this line of work further.

What is Social Prescribing?

Social prescribing is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. Schemes can involve a variety of activities, such as volunteering, arts activities, gardening, befriending and group support, and exercise activities, often provided by voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations.

Who is Social Prescribing for?

Social prescribing is typically designed to support a wide range of people, including those:

  • with one or more long-term conditions
  • who need support with their mental health
  • who are lonely or socially isolated,
  • who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing,
  • who frequently utilise primary and/or secondary health care services

Why is this important?

Increased access to social prescribing for the whole population is a government ambition set out in the NHS Long Term Plan (2019), supported by recent government investments in social prescribing schemes and establishment of a new body, the National Academy for Social Prescribing in October 2019.

What are the benefits?

Studies have shown that social prescribing can lead to improvements in areas such as quality of life and emotional wellbeing, as well as reduce levels of depression and anxiety. There are indications that social prescribing may lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services. In general, studies of social prescribing schemes demonstrate high levels of satisfaction from participants, primary care professionals and commissioners.

Social prescribing is becoming more established in arts and culture, but to date less so in relation to heritage and the historic environment.

Report recommendations

In the short and medium term, SQW suggest that Historic England should take strategic action to ensure the organisation is well-placed to support effective delivery of social prescribing. In the longer term, both operational actions and learning share activities are recommended, alongside the development of models for how social prescribing could be developed and delivered. Timeframes will need to remain flexible in order to take advantage of rising opportunities, as well as implications of COVID-19.

Download the full report

Partnership with National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)

Historic England has formed a strategic partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) in December 2020, joining efforts with other government arm-length bodies, such as NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England, Natural England, the Office for Civil Society, the Money & Pensions Service and NHS Charities Together, to support the delivery of the Thriving Communities programme and further the cross-sector collaboration on promoting social prescribing.

The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) was launched on the 23 October 2019. The Academy creates partnerships across the arts, heritage, health, sports, leisure, and the natural environment to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level. NASP champions social prescribing and the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.

The Thriving Communities is a new national support programme for voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups, supporting communities impacted by COVID19 in England, working alongside social prescribing link workers.

NASP is now launching the Thriving Communities Network and the Thriving Communities Ideas Hub – both bringing the programme’s participants together and linking them with anyone who is interested in social prescribing.Come and explore the Thriving Communities Network and Ideas Hub, share your views and needs, learn from the webinars and use the free resources.

Historic England and NASP are working together to utilise the power of heritage for wellbeing, to bank on successful cross-sector collaboration and build the evidence base for the benefits of social prescribing for individuals and communities alike.

Linda Monckton

Head of Wellbeing and Inclusion Strategy
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