The Rotherham Social Prescribing Mental Health Pilot was developed to help people with mental health conditions overcome the barriers which prevent discharge from secondary mental health care services.
The 12-month pilot - which has now been extended to March 2017 - helps service users build their own packages of support by encouraging them to access personalised services provided by community groups. It directs them towards things such as taking part in sports, rather than prescribing medication.
The pilot was delivered in partnership by Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust and a group of local voluntary sector organisations led by Voluntary Action Rotherham on behalf of NHS Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group.
The evaluation of the pilot, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, found that it had helped increase the number of discharges from mental health services.
Out of 156 service users that were referred to the pilot, 136 took up one of the voluntary and community services available, such as sports activities, craft classes, cookery courses, swimming, learning programmes, employment skills, yoga and therapeutic art groups.
The research showed three people had found employment, 24 had engaged in training or education, 14 had volunteered, 25 had taken up exercise, and 40 had continued to volunteer in the community.
Chris Dayson, of CRESR, said: “The personal stories we heard from service users reflected on how the service has had a tangible impact on vital aspects of people’s lives, such as reducing isolation, encouraging healthy eating habits and improving self-esteem.”