Minsters maintain close contact with NHS England on delivering the ambitions in the Long Term Plan, which recognised the value of non-clinical interventions in improving health and wellbeing.
In the Long Term Plan, NHS England committed to delivering at least £4.5 billion of new investment in primary medical and community health services over the next five years. Part of this investment will support the recruitment of over 1,000 trained social prescribing link workers - in place by the end of 2020/21 rising further by 2023/24, with the aim that over 900,000 people are able to be referred to social prescribing schemes by then.
Social prescribing is a non-clinical intervention that enables general practitioners and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer people to ‘activities’ in their community, such as chess, book clubs, exercise groups, instead of offering only medicalised solutions. The first point of referral is usually a voluntary sector link worker who can talk to each person about the things that matter to them. Together they can co-produce a social prescription to access community groups and voluntary organisations.
The voluntary and community sector has been an important part of local health economies for many years working in close partnership with statutory providers, and this is recognised in the Long Term Plan. In addition to social prescribing, the Long Term Plan also set identified a range of other areas in which the voluntary sector will play an important role in the delivering of the plan, including:
- In the partnership board of every integrated care system;
- Working locally to improve mental health, stroke services, and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease; and
- As part of the new NHS Assembly, which will bring together a range of organisations and individuals at regular intervals, to advise the boards of NHS England and NHS Improvement as part of the ‘guiding coalition’ to implement the Long Term Plan.