According to data from NHS England, around half of GP appointments are not directly related to medical conditions. To combat this, NHS England have unveiled plans to recruit an army of advisers to help patients live, fitter, healthier lives while also cohabiting anxiety, loneliness and depression.

The announcement comes as growing evidence is showing that referrals to community services, such as exercise or cultural sessions can boost health and wellbeing perhaps more than prescription pills and other forms of clinical treatment.

Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS England’s Acting Medical Director of Primary Care, said: “We will be recruiting a substantial number of people to support general practitioners over the next five years, to help ease the workload and pressures that we know general practice is under. But we see the network of social prescribers as a fundamental change to the way primary care operates and vital to the future. Recruiting social prescriber link workers will be a priority target as a part of the Universal Care Plan.”

1,000 social prescribing ‘link workers’ will be recruited as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The link workers will be able to give people time to talk about what matters to them and support them to find suitable activities that are a better alternative to medication as part of a step change in the provision of ‘personalised care’.

The blueprint for Universal Personalised Care, which will also free up time for GPs to deal with patients who really need them, is due to be approved by the NHS England Board later this week.

By 2023-24, social prescribers will be handling around 900,000 patient appointments a year.