More than half of those responding to a YouGov survey have backed giving GPs the power to offer arts on prescription as a way of combatting loneliness in the UK.
Support has been growing for social prescribing, which enables doctors to recommend alternative, holistic treatments to reduce the strain on primary care, particularly in cases of mental health.
In the survey, 55% of people approved of allocating NHS spending to enable GPs to prescribe activities such as dance classes to tackle loneliness. The poll surveyed 3,734 British adults, and results were weighted to be representative of the UK population.
Last month, prime minister Theresa May launched the government’s first loneliness strategy, describing it as “one of the greatest public health challenges of our time”.
As part of the strategy, she said all GPs in England would be able to combat loneliness by referring patients to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
In YouGov’s poll, 26% said they disapproved of using NHS funding for social prescribing, while 19% said they did not know what their thoughts were on the plans.
Arts on prescription schemes are already being implemented in some parts of the UK in attempts to reduce demand on GP services and help patients experiencing a range of symptoms, in addition to social isolation as set out by the prime minister.
For example, healthcare providers in the North West have launched a commitment to arts on prescription for new and expectant mothers, and babies.
A study by the Arts Council of Wales, released earlier this year, claimed that 20% of patients visited GPs primarily for welfare, rather than medical problems, while research by the University of Westminster found that social prescribing could lead to a 28% reduction in demand for GP services.