Frontier Economics and Mime were recently commissioned by the Open Data Institute (ODI) to consider the role of data in unlocking the potential of social prescribing. Social prescription involves linking patients with non-medical community-based sources of support (e.g. sports or social activities). NHS England and NHS Improvement have noted that social prescribing schemes may lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services, including GP attendance. In addition, effective social prescribing could improve patients wellbeing and promote community cohesion.
Our work produced four key insights:
- If GP appointments fall by 2-5% as a result of social prescribing operating at scale, it could lead to a diversion of between 3.2-8 million GP appointments per year.
- One requirement for social prescribing is data infrastructure, such as standards and stewardship to ensure appropriate information is collected and shared. High quality data on both the demand for social prescribing in local areas and the supply of relevant community services is vital.
- There are currently significant gaps in the data infrastructure for social prescribing. Mostly notably we have highlighted barriers to the collection and sharing of data related to the supply of relevant activities and longitudinal data on impact. These gaps occur for a variety of reasons including coordination challenges and a lack of incentives to make data open.
- There are initiatives in development or currently under way that will go some way to addressing these challenges. Further beneficial interventions in this context could include improving understanding of stakeholders’ roles in the development of data infrastructure and providing incentives to make information on offerings open.
To find out more about the research you can download the full report here.
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