Health and Care Bill: Bishop of Durham speaks in support of amendment to provide for a review on social prescribing

On 7th March 2022, the House of Lords debated the Health and Care Bill in the third day of the report stage. The Bishop of Durham, on behalf of the Lord Bishop of London, spoke in support of amendment 114, tabled by Lord Howarth of Newport, that would introduce a new clause on creative health into the bill:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 114 in the absence of my right reverend friend the Bishop of London, who is having to self-isolate due to having tested positive for Covid—which seems to be a bit of a theme of the first two amendments.

Members of the House will know that my noble friend is very involved, and was very involved in Committee, in speaking about health inequalities. Today, we want to share and highlight the strength of social prescribing and especially the role of faith organisations in helping to deliver this. There is evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing and the National Academy for Social Prescribing. But everyone who sits on these Benches would be able to tell you stories of where faith communities and local charities aid and assist with health improvements through activities which happen through them. Through cultural, creative, art, nature—all sorts of—interventions, people find health relief and are moved forward in improving their health.

My right reverend friend the Bishop of London herself runs a health inequalities action group, which she shares with six different faith leaders, healthcare workers and people with lived experience of health inequalities. They all highlight the role of faith organisations as legitimate community assets in delivering social prescription. An example is Art is Freedom, an art exhibition which features the work of survivors of modern slavery, curated by the crisis charity Hestia, which works closely with the Salvation Army. Not very far away from here, in Hackney, some churches run an intervention called Psalms & Stretches—a meditative form of gentle exercise which uses breathing, stretching and strengthening.

There is growing knowledge among multifaith groups—of all faiths—and volunteer organisations of informally doing work to reduce health and social inequalities, so our ask is simply that local communities are included in the solutions towards personal and community health. Civil society and all the people and groups that make it up are doing work that is worth learning from, and we need to consult them, as is mentioned in subsection (3) of the new clause proposed by the amendment. Alongside the professionals, they have insights to offer, so I hope that the Minister will consider the amendment and join us in creatively tackling health inequalities and improving population health through social prescribing.


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