The Prince of Wales has offered his public support for “social prescribing”, saying sending patients to art classes, the great outdoors or exercise is “living proof” that there is a world of help “beyond our conventional medicines”.
The Prince, speaking during a visit to NHS staff in Cornwall, said there is “huge potential” in social prescriptions, which he described as an “immensely important and fast-developing field of the health service”.
Saying he had been a supporter of the concept for many years, he praised those “pioneering” the movement to offer patients non-medical interventions “that can contribute to our health, wellbeing and healing”.
The Prince also praised GP surgeries for their “heroic” work during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the nation owed them a “debt of gratitude”.
Visiting St Austell Healthcare with the Duchess of Cornwall, the Prince heard how the practice now uses “social prescribing”, giving patients suggestions such as art classes or trips to an allotment, in a scheme pioneered by the Prince of Wales’s medical advisor Dr Michael Dixon.
St Austell is a test site for the Institute for Social Prescribing hosted by the South West Academic Health Science Network.
Addressing around 30 health staff standing socially-distanced outside the centre, the prince said it was “most heartening” to meet staff running the system which prescribes non-medical treatments to tackle lifestyle ailments.
He said: “They are living proof, if it was ever needed, that beyond our conventional medicines and procedures there are so many other interventions that can contribute to our health and healing.
“The work that you are doing here with an emphasis on the psychosocial as well as the biomedical, mobilising the whole community and exploring the limits of how we can help each other, is surely a lesson to us all.
“I can only say that what I have seen and heard today gives me enormous hope for the future.”
He added: “We have heard much recently about the heroic work being done in hospitals during this pandemic, but I believe it is now also time to thank those of you in General Practice and Primary Care for the heroic work that you have been performing within your communities.
“I have nothing but praise for doctors and nurses, but what strikes me most is how this vital work is part of a vast team effort and I am so grateful for this opportunity to meet with those other members of the team.”