"We connect the client to the journey, not the journey to the client."
Freddie Jones, Senior Social Prescriber, Chichester District
Social prescribing isn’t a new concept. In fact supporting individuals with the wider determinants of their health has been practiced by health care professionals for decades. However it is only recently that social prescribing has been recognised as a standalone discipline by the NHS.
So successful has it been as a way of helping to combat the negative impacts of non-physical conditions, including social isolation, that it has become part of the NHS’s universal personalised care plan. Something the NHS has committed to deliver by 2023/24.
GPs refer their patients to social prescribing teams when their physical ill-health is related to a range of external issues such as debt, social isolation, housing and unemployment. The team then works with them to establish their individual needs, before connecting them with suitable local and community groups and statutory services for practical or emotional support, information and advice.
Chichester District Council
Three years ago, Chichester District Council established its own social prescribing team of four, but recent funding has seen the team grow to eight due to the popularity of the service - and to meet the increased demands due to the pandemic. The service is funded by the NHS through Primary Care Networks, and local housing associations (Hyde & Clarion). But team members are employed by Chichester District Council, and sit within its Communities team.
Around 63% of those referred to the social prescribers by their GP are women, and over 50% are aged over fifty. For this reason, the service is exploring methods of increasing referrals in the younger age groups, and has begun to slowly accept referrals from external referrers outside the NHS. They are also in the process of opening self-referrals in an attempt to capture those individuals who may not be seeing, or discussing, their non-medical issues with their GP.
Freddie Jones, social prescriber
Freddie Jones has been working in Chichester District Council’s social prescribing team since it began, and is currently Senior Social Prescriber. His focus is on empowering people to connect with their communities, so that they are then able to access all the support, information and advice available. Clients are offered up to six appointments with their social prescriber, which can either be over the telephone, video or in the community. The team are in the process of reviewing the need for face-to-face appointments in the GP practices moving forwards, due to the continued success of the service moving to a largely remote service.
Freddie and the team make initial contact with new clients via telephone. During the informal, initial conversation, clients have the opportunity discuss their dilemma, or what it is that they want to change in their lives. They are then provided with the opportunity to collaboratively create their own social prescription, which may range from information and advice, to social connection and emotional or practical support.
Everyone is helped at their own pace, to achieve whatever the individuals desired outcome, or goal is. As Freddie says, ‘we connect the client to the journey, not the journey to the client.’
Links with Pathfinder
The social prescription might entail involvement in a creative art, sport or nature-based activity, or projects that have a more practical focus, such as Men in Sheds. Freddie has also developed links with Pathfinder Midhurst and Chanctonbury, which runs a range of social activities for its own service users. Other strong community partnerships include those with community wardens, food banks, village agents, parish councillors and even a local vicar, all of whom are establishing steering groups to discuss local partnerships, for the benefit of their communities.
And the results are very positive. Freddie Jones highlights the benefits to GPs on their perception of their workloads, as well as improved multi-disciplinary working. Relationships between partners and stakeholders are increasingly constructive. Social prescribers’ ability to work as advocates for their clients is also having a positive outcome for wellbeing.
The future of social prescribing
Around 1,000 trained social prescribers are currently working with patients within the NHS, a figure that is anticipated to rise further. The aim is for over 900,000 people to benefit from having been referred to social prescribing schemes as part of the NHS’s long term plan (https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/) by 2023/24.
For more information about how the NHS is planning to deliver universal personalised care, visit the website at https://www.england.nhs.uk/personalisedcare/upc/