The government is investing £3.6 million of government funding for social prescribing, which is a form of care by the community. The aim is to reduce pressures on GPs by funding other ways to deal with emotional and social issues.

It says that social prescribing can help those experiencing grief, addiction, dementia and loneliness through a wide range of community-led social activities, services and opportunities that have proven benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.

This could include gardening clubs for people to socialise and learn new skills, new exercise classes to build confidence and become healthier, as well as financial advice for people with money worries, among many other initiatives.

With Christmas approaching and many people feeling the negative impacts of loneliness over the festive period, social prescribing provides people with the tools to help manage their mental health and meet others in their community.

Mental Health Minister Maria Caulfield said:

“With many people struggling with their mental health and loneliness, particularly over the festive period, social prescribing offers a proven innovative approach to support their wellbeing.

“Mental health is a priority and it’s vital people have access to the tools and support they need – this funding will provide much-needed help to people with a wide range of needs, as well as easing pressure on GPs and freeing up appointments.”

In 2019, the government set out a manifesto commitment to extend social prescribing and expand the NASP.

Minister for Loneliness Stuart Andrew said:

“The festive period can be a particularly lonely time for many people given the greater emphasis on spending time with friends and family.
“Through social prescribing healthcare professionals are able to connect those in need to a range of community-led services, helping to improve mental wellbeing, build networks and reduce loneliness.

James Sanderson, Director for Personalised Care and Community Services at NHS England, said:

“Giving people more choice and control over their own health and care was an important part of the NHS Long Term Plan, and we have already far exceeded our ambitions, providing personalised care including social prescriptions to millions of people.

“This funding should put even more options and evidence into the hands of local NHS teams, to help them better support the record number of people experiencing mental health issues since the start of the pandemic.”