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There are around 30 social prescribing sites in the country, with the HSE currently finalising a framework to standardise delivery, a spokesperson for the Executive has told the Medical Independent (MI). Social prescribing is a mechanism for linking people with non-medical sources of support within the community to improve physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. The Programme for Government 2020 seeks to expand social prescribing.
According to the HSE, social prescribing is an option for people experiencing social exclusion or isolation; have vague or unexplained symptoms; symptoms of depression or anxiety; are frequent attendees at their GPs or have poor social support. Social prescribing is delivered by social prescribing co-ordinators or social prescribing link workers. Most are employed on a part-time basis primarily through community development organisations. There are also “a few examples” of social prescribing link workers employed by GP practices, the HSE’s spokesperson told MI.
Some social prescribing sites are funded locally by the HSE through grant aid agreements with community/voluntary organisations and others are supported by the Department of Health’s Sláintecare Programme via Pobal. During the pandemic, social prescribing coordinators/link workers have adapted their service to offering support by telephone and connecting people to local responses and online supports.
“Digital poverty has been a challenge and social prescribing co-ordinators/link workers helped address this by providing practical guidance and resources to enable people stay in touch through this difficult time.”
A HSE framework to standardise the delivery of social prescribing is being developed by HSE Health and Wellbeing, Strategic Planning and Transformation. It is expected to be launched in quarter two this year. The framework describes a model of social prescribing which supports the development of the service, outlining referral pathways from a range
of healthcare services including GPs, public health nurses, mental health, and older people’s services.
There is also a social prescribing project based at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, funded through the Sláintecare Programme. Evaluation of this project is likely to inform the potential of social prescribing in the acute setting.