Can social prescribing help improve health in Wales?

Carolyn Wallace

Dr Carolyn Wallace of USW

MEETINGS are being held across Wales to develop a project that will look at whether ‘social prescribing’ (SP) can be used to improve the nation’s health.

The Wales Social Prescribing Research Network (WSPRN) has been set-up to look at whether SP can be developed to have a bigger impact on communities across the country.

Social prescribing is a way of meeting the social, emotional and practical needs of people through services in the voluntary and community sector, rather than relying on health and social care services to provide a solution.

The project is being led by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), the national membership organisation for the third sector in Wales, and the University of South Wales (USW).

Others involved include other universities in Wales, Public Health Wales, health boards, local authorities, the third sector, statutory social care and health organisations, members of the public, the independent sector and industry.

“The project is running between now and March 2019, and will look at providing distinct research on the impact of social prescribing in Wales,” explained Dr Carolyn Wallace of USW.

“Although SP is being widely implemented with support from public funds, there are no clear agreements on definitions and there are questions as to whether it’s worthwhile, effective, and value for money.

“That’s why we have individuals and organisations from across Wales who have come together to develop a proposal to create a sustainable research network to collect evidence on the benefits of SP in Wales.”

To develop the WSPRN research, four meetings will be held across Wales to gather the views of those who are involved with SP.

These will be at full-day evening in Cardiff on May 21, followed three half-day events in Bangor on September 14, Rhyl on December 12, and Swansea on February 6.

“Each meeting will bring together cross-sector stakeholders to consider research priorities and take action to build research relationships and grant submissions, to further develop the network and the research webpage,” said Judith Stone of WCVA.

“This in turn will have an impact on existing and future social prescribing services by improving communication, building evidence on individual and community results, the social capital developed, and to provide an evidence base to demonstrate whether SP is value for money.”