The commitment to increase access to social prescribing support was a key plank of the NHS Long Term Plan’s commitment to Universal Personalised Care and has been enabled by significant central funding from NHS England, which is channelled through Primary Care Networks who can claim the costs of recruiting social prescribing link workers.
However social prescribing is not a new concept and its roots are long and deep in the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector, and its success depends on strong collaborations between the VCSE sector, health bodies and a wide range of others in local communities.
To support this work National Voices has been working to understand the impact of NHS England’s investment in social prescribing link workers on the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector and to ensure that roll out takes account of the needs of VCSE bodies.
In our 2020 report Rolling out social prescribing we shared learning from over 300 VCSE organisations on their experiences of the early phases of the roll out through Primary Care Networks. We identified opportunities for progress in five key areas: the link worker role; measurement; funding; addressing inequality; and collaboration.
Since then we’ve been working with the Personalised Care Group at NHS England and NHS Improvement and with New Philanthropy Capital to broaden the discussion around how to realise the potential of social prescribing as a tool for supporting a wider shift across the health and care system towards more effective community-based support to help people live well with long-term conditions.
Peer support helps us make sense of our experiences and puts us in touch with people who share them, and through whom we can see the next few steps in front of us, even in the most difficult circumstances. In recent years the formal health system has recognised the potential of peer support to help people who are managing ill-health, long-term conditions and living with disabilities. Peer Support has been recognised as a core component of Universal Personalised Care (UPC), which was put at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019. Implementing the Comprehensive Model sets out how peer support fits within the UPC model, saying that it should be available to everyone with a long-term condition. But this aspiration of universal access is far from being achieved.
Over recent years National Voices has been working alongside individuals and organisations involved in peer support to make the case for improved access to peer support. We’ve brought together the growing evidence base around its impact which demonstrates that peer support is effective. In Spring 2019, National Voices launched the Peer Support Hub, which we host on behalf of the wider community involved in peer support. The Hub brings together resources and learning from across this community.
Since then we’ve been working alongside individuals and organisations involved in peer support to consider how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the need for, and delivery of, peer support. We know that the pressures being felt across the health system as a result of the pandemic are only intensifying the need for peer support.
We’ve brought together our learning in a blog; a learning pack on online peer support and a document outlining the opportunities for further collaboration on across the peer support community .
We continue to share this learning with colleagues across the system – including with NHS England and NHS Improvement who are using it to create new guidance to support local commissioners in understanding how they can support the development of peer support in their communities.