Funding, Politics

Arts on prescription, urges Hancock

Health Secretary to pilot schemes in GP surgeries

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is giving £4.5 million to pilot “social prescribing” schemes which will see patients taking up arts activities as an alternative to drugs.

The funding will allow GPs to recommend methods such as arts engagement, volunteering, sports and gardening when treating patients with mental health problems. The money can be used to set up new organisations such as sports or arts clubs, support existing groups and help GP surgeries make links with such organisations.

Hancock, who was Culture Secretary betweenJanuary and July this year, says he wants the NHS to focus on reducing loneliness and encouraging people to exercise more and to “reduce the overprescription of unsophisticated drugs”.

Hancock said: “Evidence has shown the potential benefits of approaches like social prescribing, which addresses people’s physical and mental well-being and has been shown to both improve patients’ quality of life and reduce pressure on other NHS services.”


The Royal College of GPs has backed social prescribing and called for schemes in every surgery, arguing that an exercise class or other activity that simply gets people out of the house can “transform patients’ lives” by improving both mental and physical health.


A survey of 1,200 GPs, commissioned by Aesop, found two thirds agreed that public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution towards preventing ill health among the public. Forty-four percent also agreed that arts interventions can be a cost-effective way to deliver primary care and improve health outcomes.


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