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NHS prescribes knitting to tackle ill-health

Posted on in Business News, Creative News

With mounting deficits, an ageing population and £22bn of "efficiency savings" to find in the next five years, the NHS is facing a monumental task.

There is a fascinating parallel debate going on about just how ambitious and radical the health service should be. It centres on this: to what extent should the NHS think outside the box as a way of preventing ill-health?

There was a sense of this during last week's annual conference of the NHS Confederation, the body which represents health service managers.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens spoke about the need to focus on health as well as ill-health. He cited the example of child obesity to make his point, saying if this was not tackled it would lead to a tide of new cases of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. He urged the NHS to "rattle the cage and try something different".

But he could have chosen a range of other issues from smoking to drinking. The theme cropped up again in a separate debate on the devolution of public spending in Greater Manchester. Philip Blond, director of ResPublica, a think tank which has been looking into the case for change in the region, spoke about his desire to see the health service intervening early to prevent people developing health problems in the first place.

There is growing interest in social prescribing, whereby GPs refer patients on to knitting clubs and fishing groups, as a way of tackling problems such as depression.

Offering befriending services is another novel idea that is growing in popularity as a way of tackling social isolation among the elderly, which is increasingly been recognised as a risk factor for ill-health and death.

In health circles, it all comes under the umbrella of what is called "upstream" intervention. That is to say supporting people before their conditions worsen and they end up in hospital or a care home, which are the two most expensive ends of the health and care sectors.

This agenda requires the NHS to work with local partners, particularly councils. The big unknown though - as the pressure on the service intensifies in the coming years - is whether there will be the breathing space for it to do so.
With the number of knitters and crocheters in the UK estimated to be around 7.5 million, it's fast becoming clear that the very sociable hobby has significant psychological and social benefits, which can contribute to improved wellbeing and quality of life.


For many years, Stitchlinks founder, Betsan Corkhill has been looking into the benefits of knitting for wellbeing. Not only the social benefits, but the physical too - both of which could drastically reduce NHS costs should GPS start prescribing knitting as a preventative as well as healing measure.

Betsan's continued search for even more evidence could have global implications and a massive, positive impact on wellbeing.

As a direct result of the ongoing work that Betsan is doing with academics and clinicians, therapeutic knitting and therapeutic knitting groups are being formally acknowledged by leading clinicians and academics for their benefits in mainstream healthcare.

Support StitchlinksEstablishing an even greater evidence-base for the use of Therapeutic Knitting as a tool for wellbeing and health management could ensure a thriving future for the knitting industry which is independent of market and fashion trends worldwide.

ActSmart are wholly committed to supporting Stitchlinks research and benefits to personal wellbeing and the creative industry. ActSmart makes a contribution from every creative business's subscription towards Stitchlinks.

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