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Celebrating Social Prescribing Day

Today is Social Prescribing Day.

Since 2019, the day has been set aside to celebrate Social Prescribing Link Workers and local and national organisations that work to support our overall health and well-being.

It is also a chance to highlight and introduce social prescribing to people who may not be familiar with this relatively new addition to the NHS.

So, who better than James Errington and Clare Matthews to tell us about social prescribing and share examples of the team’s great work?

What exactly is Social Prescribing?

There are things in our lives that impact our health that medicine alone cannot treat.

Whether it is loneliness, relationship or family problems, stress, debt, housing issues or grief, it all takes its toll.

The technical term is ‘social determinants of health. ‘ There is lots of research showing how these non-medical issues can make it more likely that we will become ill or prevent us from getting better.

Social Prescribing is about understanding your situation and what you hope to change and seeing where we can find social or community ‘cures’.

It’s a different type of care than you might be used to when you go to your GP because we have the time to take a much broader look at all parts of your life and find ways to help you be healthy, well, and fulfilled.

How does Social Prescribing work?

The first step is always to have a conversation where patients can tell us all about what’s going on with them, what their issues or worries are, and what they would like to be able to do.

It really is about looking at the bigger picture of someone’s life and understanding what is important to them, what would help them the most, and how we can support them in being the best possible version of themselves.

From there, we’ll make a plan and support them along the way.

So, for someone experiencing loneliness, we might find some classes or groups they’re interested in and go along to a session with them.

Or for someone struggling with money or housing, we can put them in touch with an organisation that helps people manage their finances or get benefits.

We’re always adding links, events, groups, and organisations to our big book of contacts, so we can almost always find someone or somewhere to connect you with.

After making the plan, we’ll regularly check in with people to see how they’re doing, their progress, and what else we can do to help.

Who can Social Prescribing help?

Anyone with a need affecting their overall well-being that a prescription or other medical treatment won’t fix.

Our teams work with patients at all GP practices in Gosforth and Jesmond — it’s part of the extra layer of services that Primary Care Networks offers.

We have a lot of expertise in our teams, too, from working with younger people, those with mild mental health issues, all the way through to helping older people at risk of frailty or loneliness.

Patients can ask anyone in their GP practice to refer them to the Social Prescribing Team, or a Doctor, Nurse or Admin team member might suggest they put you in touch with us.

Can you tell us about some of the things the Social Prescribing Team do?

Of course, the team do so much great work to help patients in the community.

Of course, there is individual work, like helping housebound patients with care packages or equipment. When our network colleagues in the Pharmacy or Nursing teams visit people at home, they can often refer the patient to us if there are ways we can help.

Another is the support we offer to people and their families after a new cancer diagnosis. In a previous article, you can read a case study of how Lauren, one of our Social Prescribing Link Workers, helped Eleanor and her daughter.

As I said, we can find a group, event, or organisation to connect someone with, but if we can’t, we can look at setting up something to meet that need.

Along with our Network Physio, Rachel, our team runs the incredibly popular Meet and Move classes. These support group exercise classes aim to boost people’s mobility, reduce their risk of frailty, and make it easier for them to get out and about and do the things they love.

We recently set up two new regular groups — Cuppa Club for people over 65 and Chat & Chill for 18-30-year-olds. They’re lovely, friendly, informal groups where people can chat, get to know someone new, and get advice or support from the team if needed.

The team is growing, too, as we’ve just welcomed two new Social Prescribers who will work specifically with people with learning disabilities.

How can people find out more or get in touch?

If people think they’d benefit from Social Prescribing, we’d love to hear from them. The best thing to do is to ask your GP practice to put you in touch with us. Anyone in the Admin or Reception teams can do it, so you don’t need to see a GP to be referred.