HCM Issue 9 2021

Page 82

POLICY

ing Social Prescrib

Forging new pathways As the UK government’s social prescribing initiative gains momentum, Kenny Butler calls on the sector to step up and get involved

Working in partnership The first ever partnership between NHS England and ukactive, announced by chair Tanni GreyThompson in 2020, saw the sector pledging 500,000 hours of physical activity provision at no cost to the end user, via the social prescribing services which are being rolled out across England. These hours are being delivered in various forms, such as one-to-one or group exercise sessions, coaching time, use of facilities and

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Issue 9 2021 ©Cybertrek 2021

staff time, use of libraries and digital and hybrid fitness offerings. This initiative highlights the key role the health and fitness sector has to play when it comes to integrating with NHS healthcare pathways and maximising support for the healthcare sector at a time when both the health service and social care systems are under huge pressure. Our sector has a huge opportunity to develop strong partnerships with the NHS and other health agencies, given we have a breadth of programmes that can play a direct role in improving people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing. We’re the engine room of physical activity in this country, with gyms, pools, leisure centres and equipment suppliers already playing an essential role. Our role can grow further through the development of pathways which enable people to get into activity via their doctor or their social prescriber – or through referrals from health care professionals, such as physiotherapists. Now we want to diversify our programmes and link the healthcare sector to the

PHOTO: KENNY BUTLER

HS England’s ambitions for social prescribing are moving away from a onesize-fits-all health and care system, towards a set-up which gives people greater choice and control over the services they need to help support and improve their mental and physical health. Social prescribing is now linking across sectors, including health and fitness, the arts and the natural environment and as a result, ukactive is working on a number of initiatives to link the fitness sector to opportunities that support the wider social prescribing infrastructure.