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Social prescribing in the military: is it time to embrace a change?
  1. Matthew K Boulter1,2,
  2. T J Holland1,
  3. J Blackadder-Weinstein1,
  4. M Smith1 and
  5. K King1
  1. 1Academic Department of Military General Practice, Research and Clinical Innovation, Defence Medical Services, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Atlantic Medical Group, Penzance, UK
  1. Correspondence to Wg Cdr T J Holland, Academic Department of Military General Practice, Research and Clinical Innovation, Defence Medical Services, Birmingham, UK; toby.holland634{at}

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Defence requires a fit fighting force, but fitness is impacted by more than medical issues, life stressors also play a part. The Defence Medical Services (DMS) provide occupational management and care co-ordination between personnel, the employer and third sector organisations.1 This support mirrors the concept of social prescribing, now common in the NHS, but it lacks the dedicated link to support services, non-medical interventions and expertise in the changing array of support available. The DMS model uses the Defence GP as the co-ordinator. With increasing demands on medical services, is it time for Defence to formally adopt social prescribers (SPs) to work alongside medical and welfare services, connecting the military to local support services?

Social prescribing (SP) is a means of supporting individuals and signposting them to local services designed to support the person’s health and well-being.2 The concept is aligned to that of a family doctor at the heart of the community and recognition that a proportion of GP consultations stems from non-medical problems such as debt, loneliness and housing difficulties.3 Now that GP practices manage a greater range and severity of illness,4 SP fills the gap between medical care and low-level, non-medical, support measures.

A fundamental principle of SP is to place the focus on the individual and their needs rather than those of the provider organisations.5 Referrals may arise from multiple sources including social services, police and the probation service, or increasingly through self-referral. Interventions can be wide ranging, but are typically low cost and well below the referral threshold of overstretched social services providers. SP has been shown to improve outcomes, such as well-being scores, reduced admissions and length of stay, and overall social care spending.2

In recent years, community-based support within the NHS has diversified. This has been underpinned …

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  • Twitter @jodieblackadder, @DrKate_King

  • Contributors KK and MKB devised the article concept and provided the initial drafts; MS and JB-W contributed to initial revision process; TJH led the drafting and revision process.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.