A group of people handling objects from a Museum collection
Handling museum objects can help wellbeing. © Historic England
Handling museum objects can help wellbeing. © Historic England

Wellbeing and Social Prescribing

Historic England's work on using heritage interactions to improve well being through social prescribing.

What is Social Prescribing?

Social prescribing is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. Schemes can involve a variety of activities, such as volunteering, arts activities, gardening, befriending and group support, and exercise activities, often provided by voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations.

Who is Social Prescribing for?

Social prescribing is typically designed to support a wide range of people, including those:

  • with one or more long-term conditions
  • who need support with their mental health
  • who are lonely or socially isolated,
  • who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing,
  • who frequently utilise primary and/or secondary health care services

Why is this important?

Increased access to social prescribing for the whole population is a government ambition set out in the NHS Long Term Plan (2019), supported by recent government investments in social prescribing schemes and establishment of a new body, the National Academy for Social Prescribing in October 2019.

What are the benefits?

Studies have shown that social prescribing can lead to improvements in areas such as quality of life and emotional wellbeing, as well as reduce levels of depression and anxiety. There are indications that social prescribing may lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services. In general, studies of social prescribing schemes demonstrate high levels of satisfaction from participants, primary care professionals and commissioners.

Social prescribing is becoming more established in arts and culture, but to date less so in relation to heritage and the historic environment.

Report recommendations

In the short and medium term, SQW suggest that Historic England should take strategic action to ensure the organisation is well-placed to support effective delivery of social prescribing. In the longer term, both operational actions and learning share activities are recommended, alongside the development of models for how social prescribing could be developed and delivered. Timeframes will need to remain flexible in order to take advantage of rising opportunities, as well as implications of COVID-19.

Download the full report

Partnership with National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)

The Thriving Communities Programme, created by the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) in a unique partnership with the Arts Council England, Historic England, Natural England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sport England, the Money & Pensions Service and NHS Charities Together will support 37 projects across England with its £1.8 million fund.

Historic England is a proud partner of the Thriving Communities programme, giving £50,000 towards projects which use the power of culture and heritage alongside nature, sport, health and financial support to benefit the wellbeing of communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “Heritage is all around us – it shapes the character of the places we live and work in and gives us a sense of belonging and identity. We believe that the award winners will be great advocates for these values and we will continue to work with the National Academy for Social Prescribing to support the successful projects and partnerships in achieving this.” 

The Fund is part of the Thriving Communities Programme, which works alongside existing local infrastructure agencies in helping local VCFSE groups and organisations to help them build stronger partnerships and connect people to community support. It will also share these examples with government, opening up potential opportunities for further support.

Historic England has formed a strategic partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) in December 2020, joining efforts with other government arm-length bodies, to support the delivery of the Thriving Communities programme and further the cross-sector collaboration on promoting social prescribing.

The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) was launched on the 23 October 2019. The Academy creates partnerships across the arts, heritage, health, sports, leisure, and the natural environment to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level. NASP champions social prescribing and the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.

The Thriving Communities programme helps these groups share learning, gain new ideas, access funding and develop partnerships across sectors.

It includes a Network, designed to bring people and groups together around shared aims, a learning and development programme that uses peer to peer learning and workshops, and an Ideas Hub to share learning and ideas. In addition, there are academic partnerships, bringing together leading researchers in the field of social prescribing to ensure that evidence of the impact of social prescribing is accessible, useful and compelling, adding to the large and growing evidence base supporting the benefits of social prescribing for people’s health and wellbeing.

Historic England and NASP are working together to utilise the power of heritage for wellbeing, to bank on successful cross-sector collaboration and build the evidence base for the benefits of social prescribing for individuals and communities alike.

Read the blogs of our National Lead for the Historic Environment at NASP, Dr Desi Gradinarova:

Linda Monckton

Head of Wellbeing and Inclusion Strategy
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