The overall aim of this project was to contribute to a growing evidence base on the benefits of social prescribing, and to show the practicalities of setting up a river-based social prescription that could be followed by other groups, particularly catchment partnerships and Rivers Trusts.
‘Social prescribing’ refers to the range of non-medical referral options, such as nature-based interventions, that medical professionals can use alongside existing treatments to improve health and wellbeing. The project aimed to contribute to a growing evidence base on the benefits of social prescribing by showing that a social prescribing intervention could be completed which was safe, had a positive effect, targeted a cohort of patients who were likely to benefit and that this would be likely to lead to lower healthcare costs in the long term. This Phase 2 report builds on the practical learning around how to set up an intervention (covered in the Phase 1 report) by reviewing the results and learning that was achieved after the intervention was run.
The intervention programme delivered multiple benefits. By facilitating access to and engagement with a local natural environment, it improved the wellbeing of individuals with mental health illnesses. In this process, awareness of local conservation issues was raised, and connections were created which will last beyond the scope of the project, contributing to environmental management of the Bristol Frome. The report also covers a number of lessons learned from the project.
The project demonstrated that a river-based social prescription can be completed which is safe and has a positive effect in terms of increased engagement with the river environment, improved wellbeing and improved self-esteem. The ability to prevent the escalation of life challenges into more severe mental health episodes will potentially reduce dependence on prescription drugs and lead to lower healthcare costs in the long term.