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Four in five GPs think social prescriptions, alongside medical prescriptions, should be available from GP surgeries, according to new survey results1 released today by Nesta and Innovation Unit. Social prescriptions are formal referrals by a GP or an intermediary to community support groups, like cookery clubs or dance classes.

Out of over 1000 GPs surveyed, 90 per cent thought that patients would benefit from social prescriptions. However only nine per cent of the public surveyed have received a social prescription - but over half (59 per cent) said they would like their GP to prescribe them2. 

Exercise groups, healthy eating and emotional support were cited most often by GPs as the services they would like to refer patients to through social prescribing. Patients with long-term conditions were seen to be most likely to benefit from social prescriptions; 88 per cent of GPs identified them as a group that would benefit.

Past Nesta research has found that peer to peer and collaborative approaches, like social prescribing, can improve health outcomes for people with long-term conditions and reduce demands on the health system3. In the UK long-term health conditions account for over half of GP appointments, two-thirds of outpatient appointments and 70 per cent of in-patient bed days4.

Guy Pilkington GP, Cruddas Park Surgery, said: "Our practice has been issuing social prescriptions for the last two years and we've seen what a difference it can make to patients' quality of life. Innovations in medical treatments have transformed life expectancy but they don't solve everything. Social prescribing is about giving patients more than medicine, introducing new habits to patients' lives such as healthy eating or joining a walking group."   

Over the last two years Nesta, in partnership with Innovation Unit, has led a programme to support the design and delivery of innovative services for people living with long term health conditions, People Powered Health. The programme has supported six groups - including hospitals, GP practices, community organisations and patients groups across England - to test, embed and scale new approaches such as social prescribing in their localities.   

Halima Khan, who leads Nesta's People Powered Health programme, said: "Social prescribing has the potential to transform our healthcare system. By starting to tackle the social as well as medical causes behind complex health problems, we can enable people to have a better quality of life. This should be part of a wider shift in how we look at delivering health care. It's clear that GPs are behind this approach - we now need to move this beyond the early adopters and into the mainstream."   

More information on social prescribing and the People Powered Health programme can be found at http://www.nesta.org.uk/people_powered_health  

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Notes to editors For media enquiries, further survey information or to speak to one of the People Powered Health programme case studies please contact Natalie on 020 7438 2614 / [email protected] . 

1The survey was carried out amongst 1007 regionally representative GPs in the UK by doctors.net.uk on behalf of Nesta in July 2013.         

2The public survey was carried out amongst 2000 UK adults by Vision Critical on behalf of Nesta in July 2013.       

3 & 4Health for People, by People and with People 
   
People Powered Health was an 18 month programme led by Nesta with the Innovation Unit. http://www.nesta.org.uk/people_powered_health

About Nestawww.nesta.org.uk: Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery.