Oldham agrees pioneering contract on first-ever International Social Prescribing Day

OLDHAM Council has signed a pioneering contract to improve the health and wellbeing of hundreds of residents on the world’s first International Social Prescribing Day (March 14).

The local authority has awarded a three-year contract to a local consortium of voluntary and community organisations to create a Social Prescribing Innovation Partnership arrangement – thought to be one of the first for the public sector in England.

This will see Action Together CIO, as the lead organisation, working with consortium charity partners Age UK Oldham, Positive Steps and Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind.

Social Prescribing is a vital part of the Thriving Communities programme which is already helping residents to make good life choices to improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare and take greater control.

It prescribes social and community activities to patients who don’t need pills, connecting them to local services, groups and opportunities, reducing social isolation and improving mental and physical health.

Oldham Council, on behalf of Oldham Cares, encouraged bidders to form consortium bids so they could develop an effective borough-wide Social Prescribing Network with social value and residents’ needs at its heart.

Initial elements of such a network have already been developed and delivered in the Oldham West cluster area.

This Innovation Partnership will now work with Oldham Cares Alliance partners and the Voluntary, Community, Faith and Social Enterprise (VCFSE) sector to co-design, establish and deliver social prescribing across the borough.

Cllr Sean Fielding, Oldham Council Leader, said: “We’re delighted to mark the first-ever International Social Prescribing Day by showing how Oldham is leading the way at a national level on this crucial agenda.

“What’s fundamentally different about this approach is that this contract gives our local consortium the flexibility to work with partners and residents to fix and support local needs and arrangements across the wider health and social care system, rather than us stipulating and fixing what the required service is at the outset.

“A one-size-fits-all health and care system cannot adequately tackle the increasing complexity of people’s needs and expectations.

“This approach enables our Innovation Partnership to come up with flexible solutions in each area, focussing groups around primary care providers, constantly iterating and improving the delivery of the service, and also having a social value focus that creates opportunities for residents as part of that process.

“We know around half of GP appointments aren’t directly related to medical conditions, but by referring people through this network to community facilities and social activities, we can improve health and wellbeing far better than by simply handing out medication.”

Liz Windsor-Welsh, CEO of Action Together CIO, said: “We are delighted to be working with Age UK Oldham, Positive Steps, Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind, Oldham Council and Oldham Cares Alliance Partners to bring together all our local knowledge and expertise.

“We will create a social prescribing network that quickly and easily connects people in Oldham to activities and support that is available in their local communities.

“In Oldham we have a strong voluntary and community sector, 37,000 volunteers give 90,000 hours of their time each week to over 1200 community groups and organisations.

“Through the social prescribing network we will continue our work to strengthen this community action and help more people to connect to the fantastic groups and activities across all our communities.”

For more information visit https://oldhamcares.com/thriving-communities/social-prescribing/  

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