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|[https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/media/social_prescribing_connecting_communities_healthcare.pdf?mtime=20190715141932 Connecting Communities and Healthcare: making social prescribing work for everyone]
 
|[https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/media/social_prescribing_connecting_communities_healthcare.pdf?mtime=20190715141932 Connecting Communities and Healthcare: making social prescribing work for everyone]
 
|A significant piece of research on social prescribing published in July 2019 by The National Lottery Community Fund. This summarises what the Fund has learnt from having spent £60 million over 5 years across the UK on social prescribing projects.
 
|A significant piece of research on social prescribing published in July 2019 by The National Lottery Community Fund. This summarises what the Fund has learnt from having spent £60 million over 5 years across the UK on social prescribing projects.
|Resources have largely gone into supporting the link worker role common in most social prescribing initiatives but the National Lottery Community Fund’s view is that that is not enough. The services which people are referred to in social prescribing are nearly always provided by the voluntary and community sector but social prescribing initiatives rarely offer any resource to help with their capacity to deliver what is required. This is rather akin to a situation in medical prescribing where GPs issue prescriptions to patients but resource is not provided to enable pharmacies to provide medication. So it is with social prescribing, without community based activities and services, the system does not work.
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|Resources have largely gone into supporting the link worker role common in most social prescribing initiatives but the National Lottery Community Fund’s view that that is not enough. The services which people are referred to in social prescribing are nearly always provided by the voluntary and community sector but social prescribing initiatives rarely offer any resource to help with their capacity to deliver what is required. This is rather akin to a situation in medical prescribing where GPs issue prescriptions to patients but resource is not provided to enable pharmacies to provide medication. So it is with social prescribing, without community based activities and services, the system does not work.
   
   
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|[https://vhscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gold_Star_Exemplars_Full-Report_June_2017.pdf Gold Star Exemplars: Third Sector Approaches to Community Link Working in Scotland]
 
|[https://vhscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Gold_Star_Exemplars_Full-Report_June_2017.pdf Gold Star Exemplars: Third Sector Approaches to Community Link Working in Scotland]
 
|A report prepared by Voluntary Health Scotland
 
|A report prepared by Voluntary Health Scotland
|Social prescribing cannot work without the voluntary and community sector, but the sector faces two key challenges. One is funding to enable services to be provided and secondly the variable perceptions of the third sector among statutory bodies, especially primary care.
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|Social prescribing cannot work without the voluntary and community sector, the but sector faces two key challenges. One is funding to enable services to be provided and secondly the variable perceptions of the third sector among statutory bodies, especially primary care.
 
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| rowspan="2" |There is a need for better evidence to show the strength and impact of social prescribing if it is to become embedded within health services.
 
| rowspan="2" |There is a need for better evidence to show the strength and impact of social prescribing if it is to become embedded within health services.
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== Better understanding of the voluntary sector's role in social prescribing ==
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== Better understanding the voluntary sector's role in social prescribing ==
   
 
==== Need for better understanding of the voluntary sector ====
 
==== Need for better understanding of the voluntary sector ====
Without the voluntary sector, social prescribing is unworkable. However, in the drive towards embedding social prescribing in the health service, little attention has so far been paid to how the voluntary sector can meet the increased demand for services which social prescribing will generate. Most of the attention has been spent on considering how the burdens which are placed on health services can be eased.  In other words social prescribing could be viewed as an attempt to shift a burden from the NHS towards the voluntary sector. If resource is not provided to cope with the extra demand on voluntary services then the problem is not solved.  
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Without the voluntary sector, social prescribing is unworkable. However, in the drive towards embedding social prescribing in the health service, little attention has so far been paid to considering how the voluntary sector can meet the increased demand for services which social prescribing will generate. Most of the attention has been spent on considering how the burdens which are placed on health services can be eased.  In other words social prescribing could be viewed as an attempt to shift a burden from the NHS towards the voluntary sector. If resource is not provided to cope with the extra demand on voluntary services then the problem is not solved.  
   
It is often forgotten that even services which are wholly or largely provided by volunteers almost always incur some expense. For example, befriending services – which is the kind of service a potentially isolated person might need – will require the cost of coordination and volunteer expenses to be covered in order to be viable. Paths for All have provided an analysis of how these services such as [https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/walking-for-health/health-walks health walks] are run and mobilised.
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It is often forgotten that even services which are wholly or largely provided by volunteers almost always incur some expense. For example, befriending services – which is the kind of service a potentially isolated person might need – will require the cost of coordination and volunteer expenses to be covered in order to be viable. Paths for all have provided an analysis of how these services such as [https://www.pathsforall.org.uk/walking-for-health/health-walks health walks] are run and mobilised.
   
 
==== Improving information on community based services and activities ====
 
==== Improving information on community based services and activities ====
Access to comprehensive, accurate and up to date information on community activities and services is clearly useful for link working (i.e. for those whose job it is to identify community activities to the health service), but it is not the “silver bullet” which some imagine. Building a complete picture of what is available is more difficult than might be assumed. SCVO has direct experience of building a national database of voluntary sector organisations across Scotland. This has been expensive and resource intensive but we have found that data changes so frequently that the information is only ever partially accurate. The ALLIANCE has also developed the ALISS database, available to the general public, and will undoubtedly have had a similar experience.
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Access to comprehensive, accurate and up to date information on community activities and services is clearly useful for link working (i.e. for those whose job is to identify community activities to the health service), but it is not the “silver bullet” which some imagine. Building a complete picture of what is available is more difficult than might be assumed. SCVO has direct experience of building a national database of voluntary sector organisations across Scotland. This has been expensive and resource intensive but we have found that data changes so frequently that the information is only ever partially accurate. The ALLIANCE has also developed the ALISS database, available to the general public, and will undoubtedly have had a similar experience.
   
 
Many community activities, which are useful for social prescribing are “below the radar”, are run by volunteers in small community organisations, are fairly informal and operate on a shoestring budget. Sometimes contact information can be people’s personal address, phone number and email address – all items of information which they may be unwilling to share on national platforms. Sometimes activities run for a period of time but can then end for a variety of reasons – typically lack of funding or key people moving away from projects. Therefore, whilst databases and community asset maps are useful, they are no substitute for link workers who know their local community well.
 
Many community activities, which are useful for social prescribing are “below the radar”, are run by volunteers in small community organisations, are fairly informal and operate on a shoestring budget. Sometimes contact information can be people’s personal address, phone number and email address – all items of information which they may be unwilling to share on national platforms. Sometimes activities run for a period of time but can then end for a variety of reasons – typically lack of funding or key people moving away from projects. Therefore, whilst databases and community asset maps are useful, they are no substitute for link workers who know their local community well.
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==== Appreciating the resource implications for engaging voluntary sector led initiatives ====
 
==== Appreciating the resource implications for engaging voluntary sector led initiatives ====
SCVO also has direct experience of social prescribing through its involvement as a partner in the mPower project which is funded by the EU INTERREG programme and involves health authorities in selected areas of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The project supports people in largely rural areas who are over 65, by connecting them with community based services and directing them towards digital tools which can help them self-manage their health. It is too early in the programme to fully evaluate its impact but the project’s experience to date chimes with other social prescribing projects. It has found that vulnerable people need more than signposting to local services and that useful local services such as befriending are running to capacity. Connections with local services might be made easier if the project helps towards the new costs which voluntary services will incur by taking referrals and this is currently being actively considered within the mPower project.
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SCVO also has direct experience of social prescribing through its involvement as a partner in the mPower project which is funded by the EU INTERREG programme and involves health authorities in selected areas of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The project supports people in largely rural areas who are over 65, by connecting them with community based services and directing them towards digital tools which can help them self-manage their health. It is too early in the programme to fully evaluate its impact but the project’s experience to date chimes with other social prescribing projects. It has found that vulnerable people need more than signposting to local services and that useful local services such as befriending are running to capacity. Connections with local services might be made easier if the project helps towards the new costs which voluntary services will incur by taking referrals and this is currently being actively considered.
   
 
== Taking social prescribing forward ==
 
== Taking social prescribing forward ==

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