Social Prescribing

Overview of social prescribing

Diagram illustrating social prescribing

Our social prescribing team work across north Southwark and comprises of 16 Social Prescribing Link Workers, including two Team Leaders.  Each link worker is assigned to a group of GP surgeries within one of our five neighbourhoods.  Link worker support offers patients an additional, personalised route to improving their health over the longer-term by connecting them to a diverse array of non-medical activities and community-based resources. You can meet the social prescribing team here!

Our Social prescribing team may be in contact with patients from a registered number 0203 883 1624, please answer as this is not a spam number. Please don’t call this number for any new referrals, contact your GP practice if you need help from the social prescribing team. 

The purpose of social prescribing

Social prescribing recognises that health is determined by an array of influences and social determinants. Many concerns that people share with their GP stem from these wider social concerns, like loneliness, debt, or stress due to financial pressures.  Treatment that solely focuses on clinical health can be short-term and ineffective towards tackling the root causes of ill health. Instead, social prescribing seeks to change the circumstances that are negatively impacting on a a person’s health, aiming to bring about lasting and effective improvements..

Social Prescribing Link Workers empower individuals to take charge of their health journey by exploring a vast array of local support and activities. From debt assistance to benefit help, art therapy to gardening clubs, mindfulness sessions to fitness groups, there is a rich array of opportunities to improve physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Link workers take the time to understand the individual’s challenges and aspirations: what matters to them. Together with the patient, they co-create a support to help them embark on a path towards optimal health.

Patient Story

The social prescribing team supported an individual who was 57 years of age and living alone. The client had a history of mental health problems and was a survivor of domestic abuse.Although, she had been taking anti-depressants, she continued to experience suicidal thoughts. 

Her link worker spoke with her about what she enjoys doing and what may be holding her back. The client identified that her low mood related to feeling socially isolated and thinking about difficult past memories. The client was aware of the positive benefits of exercise on her mood and was already cycling and walking. However, she didn’t feel confident to ride on the roads so was limited to cycling in the park. Whilst bringing her joy, these were solitary activities and her lack of confidence was a barrier to meeting people. 

The link worker discussed some ideas to introduce a social element into these hobbies. They explored a ‘Bikeability’ course to improve her confidence with cycling on roads which may open up the option to join group cycling trips. They also discussed local community options, like walking groups, where she could meet people with similar interests.

Together with the patient, they created a support plan to help them embark on a path towards optimal health. The link worker arranged to attend a walking group with the client at a local community centre. Through this, they discovered that the organisation was in need of volunteers to take older community members out on e-bikes. The client signed up for the volunteering and, through completing the preparatory training, learnt bike road safety skills.

The client continued to attend the walking group. Participating in these activities increased her social connection and gave her more opportunities to exercise which had a positive effect on her overall mental well-being. She was grateful for the link worker’s support to help her attend initially and build confidence to develop her interests.

Further information

Anyone working in a GP practice can refer a patient into the social prescribing service by completing EMIS.

Please watch ‘Social Prescribing: Transforming Health for London‘ by the Healthy London Partnership to see more fantastic social prescribing work across London.

Images used are property of Healthy London Partnership.

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