Social Prescribing with NHS Property Services
Rhea Horlock, Head of CSR, NHS Property Services
As a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team at NHSPS, our role is to ensure we protect and promote the communities we operate in – both to reduce demand on NHS services now through community-led health initiatives, but also to address social issues to improve general population health and prevent NHS demand in the long run.
Social prescribing is a way of supporting more people than commissioned NHS services can alone, and as a property provider to the NHS, we believe that we have a key role to play in facilitating that support. Through our estate, we can identify space that is currently vacant or underutilised and match this up with the space needs of community and voluntary groups in an area, ensuring they have a safe, secure, and more fit-for-purpose venue to deliver their services.
Link workers play a vital role in understanding these needs and sharing the key challenges people are coming to them with regularly; is it lack of access to outdoor space, is it isolation, is it struggling to get active. While our colleagues have a good oversight of what our estate looks like, we’re not best placed to understand how it could be transformed to support the health and wellbeing needs of local communities. Working in partnership with link workers and primary care teams, we are able to create spaces that will really help people.
So far, we’ve created 26 social prescribing hubs across the country and aim to have 50 of these up and running by next year. The sites provide free-to-access internal areas for community groups providing health and wellbeing services, and garden areas across our estate for use by patients and local people. Collaborating with link workers and other NHS colleagues who work directly with patients, we’ve been able to adapt these spaces to make them fit for purpose, from dementia-friendly gardens at a community hospital to welcoming rooms without the clinical feel for mental health support.
Over the coming months and years, we will continue to improve these spaces, remaining flexible to meet changing healthcare needs, and ensure the spaces have a lasting impact on the communities we’re working in. But this isn’t something we can do alone, and is where we need the support of link workers to help us in making sure that, in our properties, we are hosting the services people need and that those people are able to access them.
If you know of a space need in a certain area, are aware of a service that could be expanded, or just want to know what is going on in your locality, please do get in touch. Constant communication between all parties – property providers, link workers, primary care networks, and patients – will be essential in ensuring that we can continue to deliver the right services to support the NHS and support local communities. We look forward to the future, to building more relationships with link workers, and making sure our spaces are well utilised and are delivering services to meet the needs of the people we are here to support.
Link workers play a vital role in understanding these needs and sharing the key challenges people are coming to them with regularly; is it lack of access to outdoor space, is it isolation, is it struggling to get active.
If you know of a space need in a certain area, are aware of a service that could be expanded, or just want to know what is going on in your locality, please do get in touch.
Rhea Horlock, is the Head of CSR, NHS Property Services, connect with her @NHSProperty