Doctors know that there is no pill remedy for every medical condition and they understand how the effects of medications are limited unless a patient’s underlying problems are resolved. We know there is more most patients need but being overwhelmed by work, most of us opt for a quick solution: to grab the prescription pad and write yet another.
It is not difficult to anticipate what might happen if a patients’ underlying needs are not met: they will come back; their condition might deteriorate; or they may be admitted to a hospital or ED. All this is not a good outcome for the patient or the health system.
It is also not helpful for us as doctors as we become aware and frustrated with a system that does not allow us to do our work the way we should. Frustration, burnout, depression and, regretfully, a high rate of suicide are the descriptors of the workforce in health care.
Ill-health becomes often a symptom of a collective societal and global disharmony. Social conditions are not conducive to wellbeing; social isolation is epidemic and life lacks meaning and purpose for many. It is not surprising therefore that depression, unhealthy lifestyles and self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs have become the norm.
What is Social Prescribing?
We are a small group of Western Australian doctors and similar minded people with a passion for community health and wellbeing. We believe that a pill cannot fix everything and that health services need to adopt a ‘more than medicine’ approach, one which focuses on the individual, their aspirations, needs and assets, and their context within the community. We have been investigating the success of the Social Prescribing framework in the UK and see it as a viable remedy that could help our struggling healthcare system. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2688060/#__sec2title
Social Prescribing (SP) is a framework that enables health care professionals to link patients to non-clinical social interventions. Recognising that people’s health is determined by a range of socioeconomic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address a person’s needs in a holistic way and supports individuals with a wide range of social, emotional and practical needs to take greater control of their own health and improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
The basic model involves a GP writing a ‘social prescription’ which refers the patient to the SP Service where the patient is assessed and linked to the appropriate activity in the community. The SP service provides warm referrals, coaching and motivation. It records patient progress and reports back to the GP. Activities provided by voluntary and local community sector could include volunteering, arts activities, music, walking, gardening, cooking, healthy eating, etc.
The benefits of social prescribing are to provide an alternative to pharmaceutical intervention, address social determinants of ill health and promote patient empowerment.
SP has proved to be beneficial in the UK and has been fully embraced by the patients and the National Health Service, which fully supports, funds and encourages the framework application in primary care.
We would like to see the same happening right here in Western Australia. We can achieve this, but we need the help of local GPs like yourself. Please, contact us at: Zamiaconnect@gmail.com