What is Social Prescribing?
Social prescribing refers to the idea of improving people’s health and wellbeing by putting them in touch with local networks and services, and increasing their active involvement with their local community.
Good social prescribing treats people in a more holistic way, looking at the “whole person” and taking into account social, economic and environmental factors before supporting them to make connections. Good social prescribing improves outcomes and experiences for people, their families and carers, as well as achieving more value from the system.
How does Social Prescribing work?
The NHS model for social prescribing involves GPs and other primary care providers referring people to a Link Worker.
Link workers give people time, focusing on what matters to each person, and looking at the bigger picture. They connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.
Link workers also support existing community groups and organisations (sometimes referred to as “Community Assets”) to be accessible and sustainable, by referring people to them and working collaboratively with them.
Social Prescribing in Birmingham and Solihull
Across the UK, Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are groups of GP Practices that are coming together on a geographical basis. Over the next few years, each PCN will receive additional money via NHS England to provide some new roles that will form a wider multi-disciplinary team, and one of these roles will be a Social Prescribing Link Worker.
There are to be 33 PCNs across the Birmingham and Solihull area and each PCN expects to employ a Link Worker.
Gateway Family Services is working with 11 Birmingham and Solihull PCNs to provide Link Workers across these areas.
Gateway Family Services has been helping people to build stronger bonds with others through a range of tailored health and wellbeing support since 2006.
Traditionally, we have focused on supporting people who are socially isolated, including those with financial hardship, and people who don’t feel a connection to their neighbourhood. All of our services are community based, helping people to sustain behaviour change, build resilience, and reinforce social and family bonds.
Two examples of recent Gateway services with a strong social focus are Healthy Futures and the Patient Health Forum.
Our Healthy Futures service supported socially isolated people who had been referred by their GP for non-medical help – much like the new Link Workers will do. Healthy Futures navigators offered a range of one-to-one help, from a cup of tea and a friendly chat, to complex support around housing, alcohol, finances, benefits, and much more.
Our health and wellbeing advisers help to run a local Patients Health Forum for people with long term health conditions. Originally set up to allow service users to give feedback on local health systems, the PHF has grown into quite a social club – so we make sure events are organised regularly and facilitated well, and also link members to local organisations that can help them to get further support.