Social prescribing – changing the way people’s lives are changed

Social prescribing is changing the way that communities are being helped and during the Covid pandemic, the huge benefits of social prescribing have proven to be a lifeline to many.

Social Prescribing is a means of enabling GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker – normally to provide them with a face to face conversation, during which they can learn about the possibilities and design their own personalised solutions. Essentially, those in receipt of help are co-producing their ‘social prescription’

It is key in enabling people with social, emotional or practical needs to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector. It is an innovative and growing movement, with the potential to reduce the financial burden on the NHS and particularly on primary care.

At BedsRCC, we enable this to happen through our friendly team of Community Wellbeing Champions (CWCs), who provide free personalised support to those in need, helping them to make positive changes and take control of their own health and wellbeing.

CWCs do this by:

• Connecting those in need with their local community
• Enabling them be more physically active and improve their wellbeing, helping them to stay well
• Empowering people to make decisions to support their own health and wellbeing

Our CWCs do the most important thing, we listen to the stories of those in need and then we give them the support they need to access local services, such as exercise classes and social groups.

CWCs also work one-to-one to help people to set health-related goals and support them to make sustainable changes to improve their lives, something that has required adapting to a new way of working during the pandemic.

CWCs share good practice and support each other, volunteers and other teams to support individuals accessing help. This has been especially important in overcoming hurdles thrown up by Covid. CWC Clare Townsend is the Social Prescribing Link Worker for The Village Medical Centre, Great Denham and Putnoe and Goldington. On Tuesday 9 March, Clare delivered a presentation for Linking Lives about supporting people with mental health problems on the phone. In non-Covid times, this would be a face to face befriending service, but now it is carried out over the phone.

The volunteers were after some tips, hints and pointers on how they can support people better in this way, due to the necessity to work differently and find new ways to engage with clients to help them move forward.

Clare received feedback from the befriending coordinator Catherine to say that “that everyone came away with pointers, feeling encouraged and empowered to look at things differently and try things differently”. This extremely important at a time where those connections with people have to be kept active whilst ensuring those receiving that support are kept safe.

Kate Ellis, Head Of Community and Wellbeing, said “ Social Prescribing allows us to engage communities and transform lives by supporting people to reach a goal which benefits their Health and Wellbeing. Social Prescribing is no longer a niche activity it is coming of age; the social revolution in wellbeing is underway “

Social Prescribing is part of the drive to Universal Personalised Care that will see at least 2.5 million people benefiting from personalised care by 23/24. In February 2021, Bedford Borough recorded the highest rate of referrals ever seen in our service at BedsRCC across both localities. NHS England are predicting that at least 900,000 people will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24.

You can find out more about social prescribing on the website or the NHS England website.

To get in touch with us about accessing support through our social prescribing team, visit Your Wellbeing Bedfordshire.

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