We thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the real life cases our Social Prescribing Link Workers have worked on since they started in February. We’ll be publishing a selection of these over the next few weeks and you can read the first one, about Wayne and his patient Linda*, below.
But first, a little note about the last few months…
Social Prescribing Link Workers and lockdown
Based at GP practices, Link Workers take referrals directly from GPs and other practice staff for Social Prescribing: offering one-to-one “whole person” support for non-medical and social issues, and helping people to access local activities and services.
We started putting together our Birmingham Social Prescribing Link Workers team in February; however, they had only been working with their local surgeries for a few weeks when Covid-19 hit and the country went into lockdown.
As more and more people started to need help, the referrals came flooding in and our Link Workers went into overdrive. As well as continuing to build relationships with their local GPs and care staff, they also continued to build their networks of local organisations and agencies, including making contact with the hundreds of new volunteer organisations and foodbanks that were popping up. And of course they were still getting to know each other as a team, albeit remotely. All work was done via video and phone calls, with occasional visits to foodbanks, shops and pharmacies to help patients out.
It has been tough, but they have done (and continue to do!) a tremendous job. In the five months they have been in their roles, our Social Prescribing Link Workers have already supported more than 400 people.
“Help me to sort this out”: Linda’s story
In February, Linda’s* GP referred her to the surgery’s Link Worker, Wayne (pictured), because of her issues with hoarding.
“A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value.” (source: www.nhs.uk)
When he received the referral, Wayne contacted Linda straight away and they arranged to meet up at the surgery for a chat.
They spoke for over an hour. Linda, who’s in her fifties, explained that her relationship with her parents was at the heart of her hoarding problems, and that although she was getting help from the Mental Health team, it was only short term. She told Wayne she felt alone and helpless, saying “there’s not much anyone can do to help me. I don’t know how to solve this.”
Wayne asked Linda to talk about what she really wanted. How could they work together to make her feel happier? She said, simply, “help me to sort this out.”
Wayne went online and spoke to his network of contacts to find out what was available. He quickly discovered that West Midlands Fire Service hold regular meetings run by Clouds End, a specialist organisation that helps people with hoarding behaviours.
Wayne encouraged Linda to attend, and even offered to accompany her if she wanted some support. She decided to go on her own and found the meetings to be a positive experience. The other attendees were people like her and the group sessions had a non-judgemental atmosphere. She told Wayne she felt encouraged by the support.
In the meantime, Wayne found out more about what the Fire Service could offer. The priority was Linda’s safety; because no-one had been able to get into the house for a while, there was no way of knowing if it was safe. They arranged a home visit where WMFS carried out a fire safety check and installed a new smoke alarm. Wayne also found out that WMFS have a Specialist Team who support people just like Linda. When he told her, she was over the moon and started planning for them to visit.
The next step was for Linda to start reducing the clutter in her home. She started selling items online, which has been going well; she is happy to see some cash coming her way.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Fire Service Specialist Team hadn’t yet been able to visit due to the Covid-19 isolation measures, but Wayne is in regular contact with them and they will start working with her as soon as it’s safe.
Wayne continues to contact Linda every week for a chat about her wellbeing. She remains pleased with her progress and tells him she feels positive about her future.
* Linda’s name has been changed