Arun Nadarasa, founder, Social Prescribing Pharmacy Association

By Nozia Sayyed

To educate, spread awareness and improve patient care amongst the pharmacists community with the help of social prescribing, an online conference was held by Social Prescribing Pharmacy Association (SPPA) on March 18.

The association’s first ever conference on pharmacy social prescribing saw over 90 registered delegates, 50 participants and 15 national and international panellists.

Founder of SPPA and webinar host Arun Nadarasa told Pharmacy Business: “The aim of the conference was to attract pharmacists to the NHS social prescribing agenda and educate them on various topics of pharmacy’s social prescribing.

“With this conference, we also focussed on literacy among patients about the concept of social prescribing.”

Speakers at the three-hour webinar highlighted how social prescribing could benefit both patients and pharmacy and be mainstreamed in a community pharmacy setting to improve patient care.

Faheem Ahmed, founder of MEDLRN, said since every patient was different and each of them must be assessed individually, looking at their personal circumstances, to identify the trigger of their current symptoms. “Medication alone is often not the answer.”

Another speaker, Harry Pearson, from the University of Newcastle, discussed a project on the benefits of “pharmacy-led social prescribing” for patients and the NHS.

He said: “It would be important for a community pharmacy workplace to facilitate a pharmacist’s interest in social prescribing by allowing them to use their professional judgement to help patients.”

Dr Adam Rathbone, Pearson’s supervisor at the University of Newcastle, added that community pharmacy social prescribing could be easily incorporated into a pharmacist’s day to day-to-day work.

Given the project and its benefits, both Dr Rathbone and Pearson revealed that they would soon table their project with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) informed.

Michael Holden, Pharmacy Complete, opined: “Social prescribing could work very well with Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP) as they both focus on a patient-centred approach. Pharmacy team members could be upskilled to become a ‘social champion’ similar to an ‘HLP champion’.”

Speaking next, Jennifer Neff, CEO of Elemental Software who recently partnered with ‘Meaningful measures’ that offers the measuring tool MYCaW (Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing), shared what exactly she thought was social prescribing and its growing importance.

She said: “Social prescribing is more than medicine and is based on the fact that the majority of the long-term conditions can be prevented by lifestyle change alone.”

Besides that, she continued: “To date, 81,919 patients have benefited from the social prescribing personalised care and 367,726 visits have been achieved. Elemental Software (ES) has partnered with EMIS Software who owns Proscript.

“This is significant as patients could potentially be referred via ES integration within Proscript to their local link worker. SNOMED (Systematised Nomenclature of Medicine) code could be used to develop local pharmacy social prescribing pilots to avail this.”

Another panellist, Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca, National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), rightly said: “Social prescribing can be viewed as a model and as a concept. For the former, the link workers are what sustain the ecosystem. For the latter, this is where multiple other countries can relate where a multidisciplinary approach is required for the patients’ needs via digital solution. NASP supports the clinical champion programme due to be launched next year.”

He said clinical leaders were needed in each healthcare profession. International collaboration and shared learning thus would further enable Social prescribing to grow as a model and as a concept.

Gareth Presch, chief executive of World Health Innovation summit, said that health secretary Matt Hancock had pledged his support towards the Global Social Prescribing Alliance by placing the United Kingdom at the forefront to work with the World Health Organisation and UN Global Sustainability Index Institute. He revealed data related to staff shortages, increases in elderly population and shortage of investment for the wellbeing of people in the near future.

Presch said: “There will be 18 million staff shortages by 2030, the global population will rise from 7.6 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050 and the number of people aged over 60 would reach approximately two billion. Through the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3) Good Health and Wellbeing, every pound invested creates £36 in value.”

Dr Marie Anne Essam, Equip To Empower, tweeted: ‘Social prescribing is the big catalyst to bring us into the future, to change communities, and society – one person at a time, one connection with a link worker at a time.’

Essam said since pharmacies play a key role for many, the consultation room within a pharmacy may be offered to a link worker who can speak to a patient in confidentiality in order to build a rapport with them.

Dan Hopewell, Bromley By Bow Centre (BBBC) said: “There have been several pandemics over the past 30 years including lifestyle disorders like loneliness, obesity and diabetes.

“These are certainly not resolvable in a 10-minute consultation with a general practitioner.”

He argued that social prescribing has been at the heart of BBBC for the past 20 years as they believe that health was largely driven by social factors.

Hopewell revealed: “One of the surgeries in Manchester (Limelight) has a pharmacy embedded into its social prescribing model.”

Dawn Mitchell, Social Prescribing Youth Network, said young people had different health and social needs in comparison to the older population, especially from a mental health point of view.

Pharmacies could, he argued, really help these patients by speaking to them using a holistic approach.

His network has over 650 members and has completed a research programme funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) in partnership with the University of East London and four local areas.

“The police act as a referral agent and this is regarded as a positive option for young people. Youth working skills take precedence over social prescribing experience (usually those aged 24-25 years old) aligned to peer monitoring,” Mitchell said.

Simone Sistarelli, Popping for Parkinsons, said: “We need to treat patients individually and provide them an opportunity to use their creativity in, for example, dance where their medical condition does not bound them to become an artistic and expressive being. The idea is that this would enable them to engage in more meaningful conversation with their family and friends. This could even enable them to be perceived as “cool” among their family members and friends, including grandchildren, as they would be able to dance freely.”

Xavier Schneider, Réseau des Prescriptions Sociales et des Prescriptions en Santé Numérique spoke about how non-pharmacological interventions (NPI) developed by Professor Gregory Ninot which include Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) and Healthcare video games are successfully used in France.

“This could be introduced in community pharmacy in the UK,” he suggested.

Denise Silber, Basil Strategies/VRforHealth, said: “There is a huge opportunity in community pharmacy to start introducing VR medical applications for pain relief, anxiety and depression, phobias, Parkinson’s disease and social isolation using the Oculus headset. Pharmacies could use their consultation room for VR therapy sessions.”

Dr Anant Jani, University of Oxford, said: “We have created a social prescribing observatory which is updated on a weekly basis. This illustrates the social prescribing activities across all Integrated Care Systems in England. This is an open database available for the general public to view.”

Dr Jani revealed: “Astonishingly, there have been over 200,00 social prescribing referrals across England between January and September 2020.”

Daragh Connolly, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), said: “As community pharmacists we can evolve further by incorporating the four pillars of reviewing, prescribing, dispensing and administering into the concept of social prescribing. This would ensure global inclusion of pharmacy social prescribing.”

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