Did you know that there’s 650 muscles in the human body. There’s 250 bones and there’s around 100 miles of vessels and arteries. Yet none of these facts prepare me as a medical student for dealing with the ever-growing loneliness epidemic or with the obesity crisis. In fact, they don’t help me at all with those things. Yet, medical schools teach us to react to disease. To seek patterns, to spot the disease, to find out what’s the matter with the patient. Well what about what matters to the patient?
Our research showed that 91% of the medical students have never heard of social prescribing before. Shocking? Yeah. Surprising? Not really, because it’s not on the undergraduate curriculum anyway.
Now you may argue and some of you may think, well why start so early? Why start in medical school, don’t you have enough time to learn it on your job as you graduate?
Well studies show that those people who’ve never had contact with social prescribing in medical school don’t seem to use it or they perceive it as adding stress to their workload. Whereas those who have received training on it will use it happily. If you don’t change the student perceptions, which are built from the first day of medical school, nothing else will change because no matter what people from above will tell you, all their changes, all their suggestions will be short term and they will fall down as the soil of the future generation is fertile.
So what do we do to prepare the future generation? Well two years ago I was sat right at the back of this hall and I was a shy medical student and I just had an idea to build a national scheme of students. An army of medical students, one student from each medical school who peer teach their colleagues about social prescribing, social determinants of health and personalised care. They had four aims to be achieved by the end of the year.
They had to experience and learn by going to conferences, by networking with others. They had to teach and inspire their peers about social prescribing. They had to network and disseminate and then at the end they had to reflect and apply their knowledge in their future practice or on placements, and I couldn’t be more proud to say that an army, a small army of medical students, 27 in total from 27 different medical schools delivered the total of 65 teaching sessions across the country, engaging with 2,600 medical students in total. They came up with 14 innovations and they delivered 14 research projects including researching aphasia, research on dementia and how social prescribing can support that.
We also realised that medical schools actually do a lot more on personalised prescribing and social prescribing than we initially thought, yet none of them mentioned the definition of social prescribing and people get confused by the terminology. So what we realised is that we needed to put these pieces of the puzzle together and work with the medical schools on this initiative. So we tried to create a national consensus for teaching social prescribing across the UK and we met with key stakeholders, NHS England, Health Education England, Royal College of General Practitioners, the Social Prescribing Network and all other key stakeholders and we are now drafting the National Consensus for Teaching Social Prescribing which will hopefully complement the General Medical Council, the Medical School Councils guidelines for teaching in the UK.
But here’s another challenge. My concern is what about the other people from around the country. How do we disseminate these ideas? How do we share success? How do we celebrate your hard work, all of you who’ve had projects in social prescribing? Well this is the surprise that I had for you. So on 14 March from now on, we’ll celebrate the National Social Prescribing Day, and this is our new social movement which will aim to empower key stakeholders, it will aim to unite those passionate about social prescribing and disseminate the positive impact that social prescribing can make all over the country. Being a medical expert is no longer enough to be a top doctor and the students are ready to put in the effort to learn these new skills.
So thank you for promoting student learning. Thank you for your attention and thank you for believing that we as just medical student can play a role in driving change and delivering high quality care for current and future generations.