Social prescribing’s new chapter
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