Overview of social prescribing
Our social prescribing team work across north Southwark and comprises of 10 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 utilising the rich and diverse range of community services and voluntary sector organisations in our area. You can meet the social prescribing team here!
The purpose of social prescribing
Social prescribing recognises that health is determined by an array of influences and social determinants. Addressing people’s needs and tackling health inequalities will therefore benefit from a holistic and self-directed approach. Many of the issues with which people present at their GP stem from these wider social factors. Treatment solely focusing on clinical health can be short-term and ineffective towards tackling the root causes of ill health. Difficulties with a person’s housing situation, finance, mental health, diet, physical activity or social isolation need to be addressed if we want to improve wellbeing in the long-term. Social prescribing is a means of giving people choice and control over the way their care is planned and delivered, based on what matters to them, their individual strengths and their needs. It makes the most of the expertise and potential of people, families and their surrounding communities, whilst delivering better outcomes and patient experience.
What has been done so far?
Our original six link workers started in April 2020 and played a crucial role helping with the local response to the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown. Initial work focused on the urgent needs of shielding residents, as well as residents acutely impacted by the lockdown conditions and isolation. The team worked alongside the practices and Council Contact Centre to identify those most in need and ensure their welfare.
Following this initial stage, the team developed our knowledge of local voluntary and community sector organisations, building a directory of services to ensure that we could offer an array of options for our clients depending upon their circumstances and goals. We are establishing partnerships across the borough to enable close and collaborative working.
The team is now expanding to accommodate increased demand. We are working with SAIL Care Navigators from Age UK Lewisham and Southwark, as well as the IHL social prescribing team in south Southwark, to ensure that everyone in the borough can access and benefit from this exciting new health offer.
Gina is a young mother of a one year-old girl with a disability. Her daughter was shielding during the lockdown so they were both stuck in temporary accommodation while the home office made a decision on her immigration status. She has no recourse to public funds during this process. The link worker initially arranged prescription deliveries and food parcels from the local food bank.
Gina was immensely bored whilst cooped up indoors so through a scheme with 02 and Hubbub, the link worker was able to provide her with a free tablet to get online. It enabled Gina and her daughter to watch Peppa Pig together, something her daughter was over the moon about. Using this new IPad, Gina was referred over to the Walworth Living Room for online activities and classes, many aimed at families with young children.
Gina and her daughter really enjoyed these classes and they continue to attend. After her daughter had a spell of illness, the link worker referred her to an organisation called Little Village for free toiletries and baby supplies. This charity is also working on acquiring a new cot for her daughter. The link worker maintains regular contact to check on her welfare and see if there is any further help he can provide. Gina still awaits the home office decision but the link worker has made this wait far more bearable.
“Thank you for the great work you are all doing. I often ask my patients about their experiences of receiving support from yourselves following referrals, and it has been unfailingly positive. My colleagues have also said the same.” (Albion Street GP)
What are the plans for the future?
The social prescribing team will continue to build our knowledge and links with the community sector. A closer integration in our ways of working will free up clinical capacity, reduce duplication and ensure better care for all. We hope that the rapid response enforced by the Covid-19 crisis can have a positive legacy in bringing people and organisations together to coordinate our efforts towards tackling health inequalities and improving the health and wellbeing of our population.
Anyone working in a GP practice can refer a patient into the social prescribing service by completing the ‘Elemental Form’ in 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.