NHS England’s clinical champion for social prescribing has indicated that general practice could receive an extra pound per patient with the intention of improving social prescribing by the end of the next financial year.
Dr Michael Dixon is currently discussing this issue with commissioners with the intention of finding a rapid solution.
Dixon believes that the scheme would ultimately reduce workload pressures on GPs.
“It’s believed, first of all, that social prescribing works and is not only important for patients but also very important for general practice because, where it works well, it is reducing pressure on general practice,” Dixon commented.
Social prescribing can be a major overhead for numerous surgeries across the UK, and indeed Dixon, who currently works in a practice in Devon, states this costs about £23,000 annually in his own practice.
“If we really want to kick start this and get this going, I think a pound per patient would do it and that’s actually pretty tiny when you think about the amount that’s gone into other initiatives,” Dixon asserted.
The clinical champion also believes that funding should be ring-fenced, and that clinical commissioning groups should effectively provide this as an extra service, with no dictating of its expenditure.
Dixon also suggested that it should be possible for doctors to access advisors in a variety of different ways, with practice-attached advisors paid for by clinical commissioning groups being particularly preferable.
It is even possible that the new funding mechanism will be in place before the end of the existing financial year, with Dixon stating that the process should be completed by 2017/18 at the very latest.
However, despite these decisions, recent studies have provided some scepticism on the effectiveness of social prescribing.
For example, a recent review conducted by York University concludes that only a a few studies actually support the use of social prescribing.
Researchers from York University found that there is actually minimal evidence to suggest that a social prescribing program is beneficial.
“There is little in the way of supporting evidence of effect to inform the commissioning of a social prescribing programme. What evidence there is tends to briefly describe the evaluation of small-scale pilot projects but fails to provide sufficient detail to judge either success or value for money. Evidence on the cost effectiveness of social prescribing schemes is lacking.”
Another study from NHS City and Hackney CCG, in east London, drew similar conclusions.