Cookery classes, sports, exercise and the arts – just some of the activities Trafford patients might be prescribed as part of a new way of boosting health and wellbeing.
As part of the NHS commitment to personalised care, social prescribing link workers are being recruited across the country to support time-pressured GPs by working with the voluntary and community sector to support patients struggling with loneliness, anxiety, mental health and relationship problems.
Dr Kate Jennings, Clinical Director of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network and GP Partner of Altrincham Medical Practice, explained: “Patients often visit GPs for non-medical reasons which are having a considerable impact on their health and wellbeing – issues such as social isolation or mental health, for example.
“A social prescribing link worker is able to spend time with a patient, helping them to access the services they need and be involved with the community to develop a personalised plan. This holistic approach – through talking rather than tablets – has the power to tailor individual care and make a tangible difference.”
Arvind Adma is one of Trafford’s social prescribers and he is supporting patients across Altrincham Medical Practice, Shay Lane Medical Centre, St Johns Medical Centre, West Timperley Medical Centre and Park Medical Practice.
With personal experience of depression and anxiety, Arvind is keen to help others by providing emotional and practical support, and added: “It’s vital to spend quality time talking to patients to understand their individual needs and to support them to access the services they need. Having experienced mental health issues myself, I understand the importance of being able to access those who have time to listen and also offer practical advice. I am here to help.”
Evie Mummery, the social prescriber covering areas such as Urmston, Flixton and Partington, said: “With a background in nutrition and experience in eating disorders (mainly binge eating) and obesity, I am excited to focus on this area too which can have a huge impact on the physical and mental health of patients.”
NHS Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Trafford Council are working in partnership with the borough’s primary care networks to embed social prescribing within the primary care landscape.
Councillor Jane Slater, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Equalities at Trafford Council, said: “Social prescribing means we can focus more closely on people’s strengths which means better opportunities for them to live their lives to the full.
“Our community link workers have already made a massive difference to our way of working and thinking. This not only improves outcomes for patients but also links between GPs and the services on offer within our local community.”
Eleanor Roaf, Director of Public Health at Trafford Council, added: “We are delighted that we are able to provide this new opportunity for Trafford residents to access a wider range of health and wellbeing support. In particular, we value the work that our voluntary sector organisations do and we are glad to be recognising this more formally through this programme.”
Progress across Greater Manchester so far includes:
• 20,000 people received social prescriptions arranged by GPs, social workers and other healthcare staff (April to December 2019)
• 8 out of 10 GP practices now issue social prescriptions
• Approximately 16,000 voluntary community groups and organisations offer a diverse range of activities, with everything from walking groups to IT classes, knit and natter groups and cookery courses*
• As of February 2020, every borough in Greater Manchester has a social prescribing scheme in operation
• Greater Manchester is believed to be the largest city region in the country to make social prescribing available to so many people, in all boroughs
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Social prescribing is about empowering people to take control of their own health and wellbeing, helping them to become more resilient and strengthening the support networks in their community.
“Many appointments at GP surgeries are down to issues around wider social determinants of health. Social prescribing is therefore a key pillar of the Live Well approach, set out in our Health Plan, to address health inequalities in adulthood. It has the potential to reduce the clinical prescribing bill for the NHS by shifting our focus from a particular illness to the whole person, encompassing issues that we know impact on people’s health like housing and someone’s employment situation.”