What is social prescribing?  

Social prescribing is described by NHS Health Scotland as ‘an approach (or range of approaches) for connecting people with non-medical sources of support or resources within the community which are likely to help with the health problems they are experiencing’. There is a growing evidence base that social prescribing is a highly effective tool to support self-management of long-term health conditions – in particular mental health. The Scottish Government has made a commitment to social prescribing and recruiting 250 community link workers to work in general practice over the next few years. A lot of third sector organisations, particularly community health organisations work in this way already; prescribing art, gardening, exercise, cookery classes etc. 

Our participants are ‘prescribed’ or ‘referred’ by GPs, nurses, Occupational Therapists, Link Workers as well as through other third sector organisations. Some participants have remarked on the importance of the referral process for getting involved. 

Why ‘prescribe’ art? 

An estimated one in five GP visits is made for non-medical reasons. Social prescribing aims to address the broader causes of ill health and arts on prescription is a vital part of social prescribing, providing participatory creative activities that help to restore people’s mental and physical health and generate cost savings. 

There is ample evidence that the arts help to overcome mental health problems. Arts-on-prescription programmes can give rise to significant reductions in anxiety, depression and stress. One such programme in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire showed that GP consultation rates dropped by 37% and hospital admissions by 27%. 

An analysis of data from more than 15,000 older people published by Age UK in February 2017 found that engagement in creative and cultural activities made the highest contribution to overall wellbeing. 

A nationally survey of 1,000 GPs, commissioned by arts and health charity Aesop, found that 66% agreed with the view that “public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution to the prevention agenda (i.e. preventing ill health among the public).” 

The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care; ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health. The arts can also help save money in the health service and social care. 

11 May 2020 by

Art in Healthcare