More than pills – Medical School hosts Social Prescribing Fair

Swansea University Medical School has hosted its first ever Social Prescribing Fair.

The event, which earlier this week at the University’s Singleton campus, saw students come together with doctors, nurses, GPs and paramedics to showcase the power of social prescribing in healthcare.

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What is social prescribing?

Social prescribing is an emerging way of helping patients who may not be getting the help they need from the traditional healthcare model.

It allows healthcare professionals to refer patients with a variety of physical, psychological or social needs to non-medical and community groups. This can range from an exercise class for people with high blood pressure to a befriending or counselling group for those struggling with loneliness or social isolation.

Professor Keith Lloyd, Head of the Medical School, said the event, organised by Medical School students, was a huge success and demonstrated how students are key to changing the way people and professionals use the NHS.

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Professor Lloyd said:

“Recognising that people’s health is determined by a range of factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

“As a Medical School we are committed to ensuring we reduce the burden placed on the NHS.

“Our students arranged the event as part of the National Social Prescribing Student Champion Scheme and brought together a huge range of health professionals as well as local homeless groups, community groups and an ambulance scheme which is working to prevent health conditions through lifestyle and behaviour change.

“Our students are vital to the change needed within the NHS. They have the potential to bridge the gap between the university and local communities.”

Bogdan Chiva Guirca, founder of the National Social Prescribing Scheme, added:

“Social prescribing has been led to date by people who are enthusiastic, determined and who have given their best to deliver high-quality care for all.

“We want to empower the future generation of healthcare professionals to add social prescribing to their essential clinical toolkit.”

Third year Graduate Entry Medical student Hilary Williams, who organised the event with Swansea University’s GP Society, said:

"We're really excited to bring together so many professionals with such a broad range of skills and experience. 

“We hope the positive attitude with which people have approached this project can strengthen existing social prescribing networks in Wales, and inject some energy into building new links between the public and third sector. 

“With healthcare budgets so tightly squeezed, social prescribing is the best way to bridge the gap for people who desperately need support but do not fulfil criteria for medical interventions.

“At the same time, it can link community enterprises with those who most need them, and who may not have known about them otherwise. This in turn helps the enterprises to grow and knits the community together.”

Rebecca Fulton, Welsh student lead for the Social Prescribing Student Champion scheme, and another of the organisers, added:

“Events like this demonstrate the growing awareness of the benefits social prescribing can bring to the healthcare system, the local community and, most importantly, to patients.

“We firmly believe that every healthcare professional and community group in Wales has a part to play. From paramedics and district nurses, who visit patients in their own homes, to doctors and research nurses, who can evaluate the evidence and help patients decide which social prescriptions are right for them.

“The fair brought together a range of like-minded people from across the healthcare and community sectors, and we hope it has given rise to many strong and long-lasting partnerships."