With the news that the government is to invest £4.5 million in social prescribing programmes across the country, we bring you a Reading Well best practice example from the health and wellbeing team at Shropshire Libraries.
What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing is a means of enabling GPs, health and social care professionals, the voluntary sector and other partners such as job centres and pharmacies, to refer people to a social prescribing advisor, who supports and refers patients to local services such as walking clubs, gardening or arts activities.
By providing non-medical support, it aims to improve patients' quality of life, health and wellbeing by recognising that health is affected by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, and by helping them take greater control over their own health.
Evidence shows that this approach works: a UK study found that after 3 to 4 months, 80% of patients referred to a social prescribing scheme were paying fewer visits to A&E, outpatient appointments and inpatient admissions.
Prescribing Reading Well in Shropshire
Oswestry Library and North Mobile Library in Shropshire have been working in partnership with other community organisations on a social prescribing pilot scheme in the local area.
The scheme means that when GPs identify patients who they feel would benefit from a health-promoting community intervention, they can direct them to Shropshire Council's health service, Help2Change, where a friendly and experienced advisor is available to talk to the client about resources and services available in the library to help.
And according to Mirka Duxberry, Library Development Manager at Shropshire Libraries, chief among these resources are the expert-endorsed Reading Well collections:
"The programme offers more than signposting and includes one to one support from a social prescribing advisor, trained in behavior change. The majority of clients have anxiety, depression and/or pain management issues. We have introduced them to our specialist Reading Well collection of books on these topics, activities for reducing stress/reducing isolation such as Time to Listen (books aloud for adults), and Quick Reads book club for people with low confidence and concentration."
Help2Change Lead Advisor Claire Sweeney has seen first-hand how Reading Well has helped her clients:
"The library Books on Prescription and Moodboosting Books are key interventions for social prescribing to refer on to and I believe they can really support individuals through greater access to information and in turn, assisting them to improve their lives."
Meeting local needs
The programme is designed to benefit those affected by or at risk of long term conditions, as well as help to tackle loneliness and isolation, and feedback from users has certainly been positive so far:
"The thing that helped me most was your friendly advice tailored to my present needs. I've been using libraries for years but had no idea how much their services had spread beyond books."
"I really enjoyed meeting the library staff, and felt much better having had the session. I feel that there are now options out there for me, and I will look forward to taking part in some of the activities."
Public health backing
The scheme also has the full support of Shropshire Council's public health department, who has seen how working with Shropshire Libraries has helped to broaden their reach into communities and really "make a difference by working with partners to make health and wellbeing information available to the public" .