Tom Coffey: London's commitment to social prescribing

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  • Posted:Tuesday 20 November 2018

Dr Tom Coffey OBE, Senior Adviser to the Mayor, Health Policy, Greater London Authority, talks about the Mayor of London's social prescribing strategy and plans for implementation at our event in November 2018, Social prescribing: coming of age.


Sadiq is a great convert to social prescribing. He’s passionate about it for his Health in Equality strategy, one of his key five showcase commitments is going to be about rolling social prescribing out to all Londoners. So when we talk to Sadiq now about, yeah his planning policy. It’s not just about roads and houses, he said okay, what can I do about health in planning. So, he’s bringing a new law that you cannot build or open a new fast food outlet within 400 metres of a school in London. His transport plan isn’t any more about buses and trains, it’s about walking and cycling. About health. His approach to violent crime isn’t just about the police services, it’s about a public health approach to advance reduction, again recognising the wider role health has in the community. 

His health and equality strategy launched recently five main areas; healthy places, air pollution, removing diesel cars in London, mental health; mental first aid hopefully in every school in London. A new early years health programme. Every single childminder, nursery, 1 o’clock in London having an early years programme. Childhood obesity and the fifth main one, social prescribing. Can we ensure that every single Londoner has access to social prescribing, and this isn’t going to be just a one-year plan. This is his ten-year plan till 2028 to make sure every single mayor, which hopefully will be him, will inherit this plan for the next ten years. 

We will see many a time how social prescribing benefits general practice, reduce attendances, benefits A&E, reduce usage but it also benefits its community. The ability to strengthen your community and volunteering network by embracing social prescribing is vivid. The first big social prescribing conference was held at City Hall in London. If we knew the London wide effect approach, he would facilitate that. He will use the GLA family, the arts and cultures, green spaces, sports, voluntary sector to assist. The mapping in London has already taken place. 25 out of 33 boroughs in London have social prescribing. We already have a regional social prescribing network. We’ve had a London City-wide conference and we’ve already got, at the last count, I’m sure it’s higher now, 146 link workers and 177 volunteers working on the programme. 

Our London-wide strategy will have three main focuses; provision for all, easy access and local where possible. We will have four workstreams within that strategy. The first one about workforce and I’m very aware that we need to have a workforce to deliver social prescribing and that is based upon link workers and can we have an accreditation system which works easily across London, to make sure we’re able to improve and increase volunteering both into social prescribing and to receive social prescribing referrals and to make sure also, the wider NHS and social care workforce understand and use social prescribing. 

Second area we’ll focus on is welfare and legal advice. We’re aware in London that’s a big area, a big gap. So we’re working with the legal foundation which will help us spread access to welfare and legal advice in London and hopefully in a healthcare setting. 

Third area is digital. Not to support the link workers, to make sure the director of services is vivid and live as possible, to make sure any issues regarding governess we can sort out on a London-wide basis and the fourth one is evaluation. 

We have not, so we’re not settled on the why, we’re now how but we will need to continually evaluate what we do. Sadiq is a passionate convert and exponent of social prescribing. He wishes to support this and see the mayor behind this for the next 10 years as a minimum. His desire is to see every single Londoner have access to social prescribing. 

Thank you.