By Bob Doris MSP
I was able to speak in the debate on Social Prescribing in Parliament this week (18 Feb 2020). Social Prescribing is where GPs, and other health professionals, can prescribe activities such as walking or taking up sport to help a patients illness. The Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced a working group to look at how to expend these services.
During the debate I highlighted the organisations, such as Lambhill Stables in our constituency, which would be a ideally placed to help develop these services. Community led, bottom-up approaches would help deliver these services. I am pleased to say the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell, will shortly visit Lambhill Stables to look at a variety of beneficial work that it does for the community.
You can watch my speech below, as well as links to more information. If you would like me to keep you updated about Social Prescribing click here - http://bob-doris.scot/SocialPrescribing
- Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman's annoucement:- https://www.parliament.scot/S5_HealthandSportCommittee/General%20Documents/20200204_HS_Ltr_IN_CabSec.pdf
- Infomation from the HEalth and Sport Committee:- https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/112371.aspx
- Health and Sport Committe report:- Social Prescribing: physical activity is an investment, not a cost
I thank the committee for what I consider to be a timely, focused and constructive report for the Parliament to consider this afternoon.
I will talk about the role of community anchor organisations in social prescribing. In particular, for the purpose of this debate, I will talk about Lambhill Stables in my constituency, although there are many other such organisations. Lambhill Stables is bounded by the Forth and Clyde canal and Possil Marsh; and also by Milton and Cadder—two areas that are not short of deprivation—and to the south sits Possil. The stables are also a short hop from East Dunbartonshire and Bishopbriggs, so the organisation has a very strategic location indeed for a community anchor organisation.
Lambhill Stables has a range of facilities in which we could see social prescribing fitting in seamlessly, whether through the community cafe and kitchen, with cooking classes; the bike hub, which trains individuals to repair bikes and provide a service to the community; the gardening group, which maintains the substantial lands at the stables; the art class; the history and heritage group; the knitting group; the computer classes; the youth group; the women’s group; the photography group; or the live music groups that meet twice a month on Friday evenings. We can see that it is a thriving community anchor organisation that is doing all that it can to serve the variety of communities around the location where it is based.
Lambhill Stables is also lucky enough to have me as the local MSP who holds surgeries there. I held a surgery there this morning before I came through to Parliament. Amelia, the general manager, asked me, “Are you speaking in this afternoon’s debate in relation to social prescribing?” I said “Not yet”, and she said “You probably are now.” She also said “Check for an email from Allan, the chairperson.” So, I did and found that he had emailed me a few days ago in relation to this debate. He had seen an article on healthandcare.scot,(https://healthandcare.scot/default.asp?page=story&story=1389) in which the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, pledged an expansion of social prescribing. He drew my attention to the working group that is to be established to look at best practice for social prescribing, and how we can build and expand on that best practice. He quoted the cabinet secretary as saying that there is “more we can do to build on the growing momentum” in relation to social prescribing.
Allan said that Lambhill Stables is already actively engaging with the local NHS, primarily with GPs and with the health and social care partnership, in a positive and constructive way; however he also said, not as a criticism but as an observation, that it was rather slow.
Lambhill Stables wants to be part of the working group. It wants to be part of any national body or forum that can disseminate and share that best practice. That might also look at pilot projects on expanding anchor organisations to do more in relation to social prescribing—again, Lambhill Stables is the best place to do that kind of thing. I therefore ask Mr FitzPatrick to look actively at how Lambhill Stables could be part of that.
The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell, will shortly visit Lambhill Stables to look at a variety of beneficial work that it does for the community. Interdepartmental working in Government to maximise a community asset, particularly in relation to social prescribing, is absolutely important. The report reflects, and the Government agrees, that there should be place-based support.
We are talking about regenerating our communities. There is no magic around social prescribing; we are talking about using the social capital of all our communities to interact with each other and build and foster those good, positive, social, emotional and active relationships. That is what Lambhill Stables does, and that is what social prescribing is about.
I was also interested to see what the committee’s report said about commissioning local services in relation to health and physical activity, and the ask for 5 per cent of health and social care partnership spend to be used for social prescribing and similar activity over the next couple of years. In relation to commissioning local services, including in relation to culture, which Joan McAlpine talked about, I would want to make sure that they are locally commissioned services, and that it is a bottom-up approach. The last thing I want is large well-intentioned organisations sweeping into my constituency and saying what is best for the people. The approach has to be granular, grass-roots and developed in the same way as in Lambhill Stables, or in Young People’s Futures in Possilpark, or Royston Youth Action—I could go on.
I mentioned youth providers. It is no longer youth work that they do, but youth, community and family work. Youth work is a key to and gateway into that. No longer is it about kicking a ball around with a kid; those workers are working with and supporting the wider family. Some cross-subsidy of those supports can lead to great results and outcomes coming to fruition.
I will finish by saying that Lambhill Stables would point out that there comes a point at which it can do no more, unless a funding stream is identified and planned, and the referral pathway is funded as fully as possible, with volunteers but also with hard cash. That is not an appeal for money—although of course it would like more money, because which organisation would not? Lambhill Stables is saying that it is keen to work constructively with Government, to do more, to get value for money, and to get the outcomes for the communities that we all represent, which have tragically poor health outcomes—they certainly do in my communities. We must do better, and social prescribing is a way of doing that.
I commend the Health and Sport Committee for bringing the debate to the chamber, and will leave my comments there.