Signposting – An indication of the future

Written by: Ian Welsh, Chief Executive, the ALLIANCE

Published: 24/05/2016

Ian comments on the growing interest in the role of signposting and social prescribing in improving health and wellbeing in Scotland.

During the recent national conversation on ‘Creating a Healthier Scotland’ you can’t have failed to hear loudly and clearly a startling need to grab the thistle and improve connectedness at all levels of health and social care.

Whether it be greater connections between individuals, teams, services and systems, the need for a more democratic approach to health, where knowledge is shared and the wisdom of disabled people, people living with long term conditions and unpaid carers is utilised.  Despite living in an increasingly networked world, the benefits of collaborative infrastructures and being connected at personal, local and national levels are still to be properly realised.

The recently published National Clinical Strategy is an indicator of the growing interest in the concept of health outside the usual health buildings, and the need to strengthen a community response to the challenges faced by the modern healthcare system.

Developing a greater level of connectedness requires a change in relationships between people, professionals and society.  Mutual signposting is emblematic of this approach as it is part of the collaborative process needed to facilitate access to much needed support and a more efficient sharing of community resources. Improving the health of people living and working in our communities will take commitment, time, reliable resources and a planned approach. A new report published by the ALLIANCE lays out why this is important and highlights encouraging examples of how a culture of health is already being developed across Scotland.

The benefits of friendly local relationships, collaborative infrastructures and refining knowledge in a more systematic way seems like common sense, however these benefits are not yet fully realised across the nation. Infrastructures such as Integrated Joint Boards, general practice clusters and the inter-sector working recommended in numerous policy documents, have potential to address this by providing the frameworks needed to support improvement – provided adequate funding is available to sustain development.

Scotland is in a very good position to encourage a culture of health through connected communities. Recent government policy indicates a move to de-mystify medicine and foster a shared approach to making decisions about our health. This encompasses a more democratic approach to health – one which recognises that medicines and clinical interventions will always be necessary but that support from outside health buildings and the links between them have equal value.

Signposting is one small part of a much wider connected system, one which connects us to whatever keeps us well and happy. Being linked to the right support, in the right place at the right time can change lives and contributes to developing a culture of health.

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