Council backs 'Social Prescribing' Scheme to help combat loneliness, isolation and mental health problems

17th Oct 2019

An initiative to improve the wellbeing of local people is being backed with a £5,000 grant from Tenterden Town Council.

At Monday’s (14 October) meeting of the Town Council and committees, councillors voted to support the scheme, called ‘social prescribing’, which will be piloted by Ivy Court in Tenterden and associated doctor’s surgeries in Woodchurch, Charing and Hamstreet.

Dr Neil Pillai from Ivy Court told the council that while the area has excellent local health resources “there are many challenges that lie ahead – advances in healthcare have led to an ageing population, societal changes have led to a fragmentation of the family unit, and financial pressures have led to significant cutbacks in NHS and social care provision”.

He said increasing cases of loneliness and social isolation and the pressures of modern life are leading to an epidemic of mental health problems “that spares no age or class”.

In many cases, patients can be helped with simple initiatives that connect people and keep their minds and bodies active, including gardening clubs, knitting groups, yoga classes and Men in Sheds groups.

Cllr Kate Walder, who presented a report to the council on social prescribing, said that half of people over 65 take at least five drugs a day, which has risen from 12 percent over the past 20 years, while research has shown that following referral to a social prescribing programme, demand for GP services falls by 28 percent, and there is a 24 percent reduction in A&E attendances.

The Town Council grant will pay for training of surgery staff by specialist social prescribing organisation Wellbeing Enterprises, while will include spotlighting local needs and resources – Ivy Court has already identified 102 voluntary, charitable and other organisations which could help patients under a social prescribing scheme.

Following the decision to make the £5,000 grant, Dr Pillai said: “This is terrific news. The council has already been so supportive of our surgery and therefore the health of the local community.

“This initiative will allow us to help many more people who may require support beyond just a prescription for drugs”.