So­cial pre­scrib­ing’s new chap­ter

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

Arifa Ak­bar (Books on the NHS? A lovely, fairy­tale idea, 5 Novem­ber) raises the im­por­tant ques­tion of how peo­ple might be en­abled to “ac­cess … this life-en­hanc­ing read­ing ma­te­rial”.

My re­ply has been shaped by my ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the NHS as an ed­u­ca­tion­ist firstly in Birm­ing­ham in 2002, where I ob­served the then health au­thor­ity dis­tribut­ing 30,000 free books to all NHS staff across our sec­ond city. The book had the in­spired ti­tle The Gift, which re­flected the real spirit in which the NHS works at its best.

A few years later, work­ing with the Lam­beth Walk surgery in south Lon­don, we gave away free books to pa­tients and lo­cal res­i­dents who were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the surgery-based book club.

The “we” in­cluded prac­tice staff, doc­tors and trade union­ists with re­spon­si­bil­ity for im­ple­ment­ing life­long learn­ing. Our pur­pose was to be­gin to build a cul­ture of learn­ing within the NHS, one book at a time. When one pa­tient told me that books “saved my life”, I re­alised how very im­por­tant this ap­proach could be to pa­tients strug­gling with de­pres­sion and de­spair.

If so­cial pre­scrib­ing po­ten­tially helps to widen pa­tient ac­cess to learn­ing from books, we should make books avail­able at the point of need across the ser­vice as part of our pre­ven­tive strat­egy. Let’s work to­wards books on the NHS for ev­ery­one. Ed­ward Rosen

Head of learn­ing, NHS Univer­sity (2002-05)

The an­nounce­ment that the NHS will place a stronger fo­cus on pre­vent­ing ill health (Min­is­ter ac­cused of vic­tim blam­ing over new health fo­cus, 5 Novem­ber) is wel­come at a time when a quar­ter of adults in Eng­land do less than 30 min­utes of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity a week. The com­mit­ment in the re­cent lone­li­ness strat­egy to ex­tend so­cial pre­scrib­ing was also a pos­i­tive step – and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to take part in ac­tiv­i­ties like group walks is an im­por­tant way to help tackle many of our grow­ing health prob­lems, from obe­sity to so­cial iso­la­tion.

How­ever, we will only make progress when health pro­fes­sion­als have suf­fi­cient guid­ance, sup­port within their com­mu­nity and ad­e­quate fund­ing for pre­ven­tive health ini­tia­tives. Phoebe Har­ris Pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy of­fi­cer for health, The Ram­blers

Ei­ther take-up is low or my GP’s surgery is for­tu­nate enough to have a good sup­ply of flu vac­cine (Let­ters, 5 Novem­ber). I booked on a Fri­day at 6.50pm for an ap­point­ment on the Satur­day at 9.50am; all credit to the Fair­lands Prac­tice. They were do­ing 2,500 vac­ci­na­tions, by four peo­ple, over two con­sec­u­tive Satur­days. Mar­tin Smith


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