Social prescribing offers the kind of help that doesn’t come in a tube or bottle. Instead, a social prescription offers support that will help people access activities to improve health and enjoyment in life, such as art classes, walking football, gardening, debt counselling, housing and other practical support agencies.
Though many of these social activities have been put on hold in recent months, social prescribing has made a huge contribution to keeping patents safe and well, especially considering social isolation, financial worries and mental health.
Employing one Social Prescribing Link Worker to deliver these services across the three GP practices in Tadcaster and Rural Primary Care Network (PCN), has enabled a new cohort of patients to be identified and supported in ways more suitable to their needs.
Karen Griffiths, the social prescribing link worker across all three GP practices had only been in post for six months before the country went into lockdown. She said: “I had begun supporting patients with 1-1 and group sessions for a number of different social issues, working with local partners such as North Yorkshire County Council, Selby District Council, charities and community groups. However, during the Coronavirus pandemic referrals came in for various issues related to what individuals needed in this time of crisis – which focused more on the impact lockdown restrictions were having in their day-to-day lives.”
Some of the key activities Karen has taken on as part of her role have included delivery of medication to those on the shielding list, support with shopping essentials via local groups, carer support, helping individual patients with Wi-Fi installation and video calls through a charity donation, and in one instance a mobile phone for someone who was socially isolated. Karen also provided much needed mental health support, advice and appropriate signposting during the lockdown period, as many people experienced heightened anxiety.
Karen added: “Generic referrals did however continue to come through which were non-covid related such as support with housing, getting placed in a care home, people who were new to the area in search of community, and equipment needs. These types of requests for support didn’t go away just because of Coronavirus”
South Milford Surgery, Tadcaster Medical Centre and Sherburn Group Practice collectively make up the PCN, a network designed to improve the health outcomes of over 28,000 patients.
Dr Steve Lovisetto, local GP and Clinical Director for Tadcaster and Rural Selby PCN said: “Social prescribing have been hugely beneficial and meant that crucial wellbeing support could continue even when we weren’t able to see many patients face-to-face. Karen’s role has also relieved some pressure off of GP time, enabling a greater capacity for appointments requiring medical attention such as cervical screening, assessing lumps and cancer referrals.”
When asked about the importance of new roles to support patients in GP practices Dr Lovisetto added: “GPs and practice managers across our three practices regularly meet to share information, discuss new roles and make joint decisions that will create better health outcomes for our patients. This has not stopped because of Coronavirus, but encouraged us to do more together and have plans in place to future proof the services offered in Tadcaster and Rural Selby.”
Patients are identified as suitable for social prescribing either via a GP or when they book in for an appointment. Patients can also request to see the social prescribing link worker themselves.
For more information on social prescribing see here.
To download the Community First Yorkshire Social Prescribing Toolkit, click here.
This news story has been shared on behalf of NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group.