Tech-enabled social prescribing in Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived parts of London, where the social determinants of ill health – unemployment, poor housing, debt, isolation – are all around. It is also home to one of the most innovative GP practices in the country and I was keen to visit and find out more.

For 2 decades, Bromley by Bow Health Centre has been pioneering a uniquely holistic, and tech-enabled combination of integrated medical care and social prescribing. From rolling out tele-care, video consultations and self-care, like the diabetic care packages enabling patients to self-manage their condition, to digitally referring patients for debt advice, language courses or art therapy.

This shift in focus, from just treating the presenting illness to actually helping the patient understand the drivers that impact their chronic condition better, means they can play a more active role in managing it.

The seamless integration of healthtech into day-to-day practice at the health centre means precious time is saved during appointments, patients are far more effectively monitored and managed and doctors have more capacity to be human.

The NHS Long Term Plan has a commitment to have 1,000 link workers in Primary Care Networks by April 2021, rising further by 2023-24, and within five years over 2.5 million more people will benefit from social prescribing, a personal health budget, and new support for managing their own health in partnership with patients’ groups and the voluntary sector.

Nicola Blackwood