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Access to NHS Social Prescribing Programmes for People with a Language Barrier

Social prescribing is an influential tool in providing thorough and holistic care for all by allowing GPs and other professional healthcare providers to refer patients to community-based, non-clinical services. This year, the NHS is planning to increase the number of healthcare providers that can use social prescribing as an integral part of their practice. One of the key concerns faced by the NHS ahead of this shift is how to make sure that people whose first language is not English can access social prescribing programmes, hence allowing them to benefit from NGO and community-based care.

According to the King’s Fund, the use of social prescribing is increasingly supported by several studies, which emphasise the benefits of providing personalised care that reaches beyond the clinical sphere. The central premise of social prescribing is the belief that individuals health is the outcome of numerous factors, including social context, economic standing and environmental conditions. As such, it allows addressing the complexities of each case through a variety of non-clinical interventions by referring patients to third sector organisations that can help in alleviating some of the problems people face daily.

According to the NHS, social prescribing can be particularly useful for people with one or more chronic illnesses, who require help with mental health, who are lonely or isolated, and who have complex social needs affecting their wellbeing. It is hence crucial for all members of society to have access to social prescribing and its many benefits, including those who could potentially feel isolated from healthcare due to an existing language barrier.

Our research team aims to answer the question of How can we ensure access to social prescribing programmes for people who do not speak English as their first language? Commissioned by the NHS, our research will shed light on the scope of the problem and will provide recommendations on how to solve it. The results of our research will thus become relevant to the NHS as they prepare to roll out social prescribing on a national scale, informing their decisions with regards to holistic care provision for people whose first language is not English.

Further Reading

About Authors

James Beringer is currently studying towards an MPhil in International Relations and Politics here at Cambridge, researching the politics of global health with regards to Anti-Microbial Resistance. Prior to Cambridge, he completed his undergraduate degree at Durham University and has worked on and with a variety of humanitarian projects and organisations often with a focus on ensuring access to health facilities and the distribution of emergency medical supplies.

Zuzanna Marciniak Nuqui is a PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology, with her doctoral research focusing on caring for carers – domestic workers – in Singapore, bringing those interests and experiences into the Polygeia project.

Salma Daoudi is currently pursuing an MPhil in International Relations and Politics. She has a keen interest in health security with a focus on the right to health in conflicts.

Fazal Shah is a third year medical student with a keen interest in global health. Coming from a diverse cultural background, he hopes to play a part in increasing the access of migrants and vulnerable groups to healthcare systems through this Polygeia research project.

Daniel Tan Yuan An is a first year medical student at the University of Cambridge. His heart goes out to disadvantaged communities as he wishes to find better ways to help solve their medical concerns. He also loves to sing in choirs and relax on grass fields (especially when the sun is out).

Kasia Cheng is originally from Hong Kong and is half Polish and half Chinese. Because of this, she grew up loving foreign languages and is moving to France after she graduates to practice her French.

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