National Lottery Community Fund grants £1.5m to ‘innovative’ health project

National Lottery Community Fund
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The National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) has announced it will award over £1.5m to expand health project SPRING Social Prescribing.

The ‘innovative’ scheme aims to alleviate pressure on GPs, reduce visits to emergency departments and generally improve the wellbeing of patients across Northern Ireland and Scotland by allowing health professionals to refer patients to community-led services, helping to meet their non-medical needs.

Currently, more than £30m is distributed to communities across the UK every week as a direct consequence of National Lottery players, and this latest endeavour has been praised by Londonderry/Derry GP Dr Paul Molloy, who paid tribute to its “tremendous success” after “positive” patient feedback.

Paul Sweeney, Chair of the NLCF Northern Ireland Committee and member of the fund’s UK-wide board, commented: “Thanks to National Lottery players the SPRING Social Prescribing project has been able to make meaningful health improvements to people across Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and partners are providing a valuable connection between the health service and the community, building on the strengths that already exist, to improve peoples’ lives. I am looking forward to seeing the difference the new funding will make.”

The project comprises 19 partner organisations who are members of the Healthy Living Centre (HLC) Alliance in Northern Ireland and the Scottish Communities for Health & Wellbeing (SCHW).

Ryan Tracey, Programme Manager for SPRING, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this additional National Lottery funding, to support the wellbeing of more people and further embed Social Prescribing as the norm for health professionals and policy makers in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

“Patients are referred to SPRING Social Prescribing with a range of issues including mental health problems or chronic pain, and many repeatedly attend their GP or ED, but have nowhere else to turn. Our ‘Social Prescriber’ partners work with each individual to create a plan to meet their needs through community activities such as support groups, exercise classes, counselling or holistic therapies.”

The scheme will continue to be funded for at least another two years, according to John Cassidy, Chair of SCHW, who added: “It is important to think of social prescribing as more than simply a process of referral or as a method of signposting individuals to community provision.

“It involves building relationships, taking a holistic approach and engaging individuals at the heart of the process.”