Emancipating ourselves from the tyranny of proof
"Social prescription is probably one of the most evaluated policy changes of the 21st century". Those words from Chris Dayson of Sheffield Hallam University should be written on the heart of every health minister, policy advisor, commissioner and journalist from now on. Quite apart from the evidence, it is conceptually difficult to deny. So there is no excuse in holding the horses, when it comes to social prescribing and ensuring, as quickly as possible, that it becomes available to every GP and patient. It is time to emancipate social prescription from the tyranny of proof (to quote Chris again) and research from here on will need to focus on what works best for who, where and under what conditions.
Our forthcoming second national conference on social prescription at the King's Fund on 6th November is entitled "Coming of Age". In barely two years, social prescription, as a national movement, has reached what must surely now be the point of no return. It is ticking all the boxes whether it be about supporting general practice now under intolerable pressures, personalising care, focusing on inequalities, helping general practice and medicine out of its narrow biomedical box or supporting the hugely important work of volunteer and voluntary organisations. This probably explains its national popularity without, it seems, any opposition and why the second national conference in November was fully booked within a month of opening the box office and before we had time to publish a full programme!
So let there be credit where credit is due. Credit to those of you who have been researching social prescription, those who have been pioneering it and those who have recognised its value and are continuing to speak about it. It has been a wonderful example of a few committed individuals, up and down the home countries, coming together and changing the world. We are now no longer a few, as The Social Prescribing Network has over 2,000 members today. With our website, newsletter and increasing international interest, we have been able to progress things far faster than any of us ever imagined. Our relationship with NHS England has further enhanced our ability to realise our vision. Indeed, the relationship between The Social Prescribing Network and NHS England is almost unique - linking central decisions makers and implementers with the energy and passion of those who have been leading social prescription from the front line.
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