It’s Social Prescribing Day this Thursday (March 18th) but many people haven’t even heard of it, never mind know how much it could help them to overcome, or better manage, a variety of health issues.
Social prescribing is the non-clinical solution to improving someone’s health and wellbeing. It is well documented that healthcare only accounts for 20% of your overall health and wellbeing, the other 80% is made up of factors such as where you live, your level of education and even your diet. Consequently, a prescription of the social kind can be just as important, if not more so than traditional medication.
Across north east Essex, the social prescribing team is aligned to GP surgeries. The team consists of a variety of roles, all with differing titles (including Care Advisers and Social Prescribing Link Workers) but all have the same aim, to support you with any non-medical health and wellbeing issues.
Paul (pictured) has bi-polar disorder and depression and knew he wanted to do something to help him counter the very dark days. He met his Social Prescribing Link Worker Jacqui at Old Road doctor’s surgery. Jacqui explains: “Paul was collecting a prescription and I had a table by the door explaining what we do. We got chatting about volunteering and he told me about his boat building skills. It blew my mind; I knew what an amazing asset Paul could be for so many different organisations”.
Paul continues: “Jacqui connected me to Sailship, a local organisation that provide supported training and learning to people with a variety of health challenges. I have been able to share my carpentry skills with staff and volunteers. I feel extremely appreciated; it is the first time in my life I have received so many accolades. I now spend 90% of my time having good days”.
Volunteering isn’t the only item on the social prescription list. As well as referring people to different community and befriending groups, the social prescribing team can assist with transport needs, connect people with walking buddies and physical activity, some can even support with benefit paperwork, and if they can’t help you directly, they will be able to link you to someone who can.
Dr Clair Carpenter is a GP at Mill Road, Colchester, she speaks very highly of the Care Advisers who work with her surgery: “I have found the Care Adviser role really helpful on both a practical and emotional level for patients.
“In one case I can recall an end of life patient who wanted to remain in their own home until their death. This was only made possible by the Care Adviser who visited the patient at home and liaised with multiple care teams”.
Another advocate for the social prescribing service is Dr Annie Soares of Ambrose Group Practice, she explains: “They are an essential & much appreciated member of our primary health care team. They are able to support our patients in many different ways and it is great to see an awareness day dedicated to them”.
Even throughout COVID the social prescribing team has continued to operate, mostly remotely, but they have been on site when possible and have been key members of the vaccination teams across the region.
To access your local social prescribing team either contact your registered GP and ask for a referral for social prescribing, or visit your registered practice website and click Wellbeing Centre for details of how to make a self-referral.