A Self Help Support Worker in Wakefield discusses the value of social prescribing:
In 2017 Live Well Wakefield helped 1,721 residents get more control over the way their care was planned and delivered – and in control of their health and wellbeing.
You see, for some leaving the house can be difficult, and for others one or more long-term health condition could be holding them back. Let’s face it, we’re all at different stages of our lives facing a variety of challenges. But what’s important is the level of support available to us to ensure these challenges can be met.
This is where social prescribing comes in: a means to give those in the community who need it the support to be both happy and healthy. Essentially it ensures that everyone has a fair crack at life.
As part of Live Well Wakefield I, and many others like me, support people in finding their place in the community again. This is achieved by putting together a personalised care plan that utilises services in the area relevant to the person in need of support. This plan may include introducing someone to a community group that can create a sense of belonging by using peer support to reduce loneliness and anxiety.
Wakefield also sees our Self-Management and Self Help group (The S.M.a.S.H Society) providing a friendly space for people to get together and build on self-management tools and techniques in a fun, supportive atmosphere. A place where anyone can talk about anything, from in-growing toenails, issues at work, or simply the weather. This is a group I personally help to facilitate and coordinate, having myself been through what can seem like a ‘swamp’ at times.
Social prescribing helped me, so I am living, breathing and talking proof that it works.
Working closely with Live Well Wakefield and Nova Wakefield, along with other voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations, we look to find the best solution for anyone whose wellbeing is negatively affected. This is about helping each other, be it supporting someone to become more physically active, improving mental health or lessening the impact of long-term condition.
People can be easily referred to local social prescribing workers from a variety of services that include general practice, local authorities, pharmacies, job centres, social care services and VCSE. Self-referral is also very much encouraged.
Dave, for example, was referred to us following issues finding employment. What would be a frustrating circumstance for any of us presented Dave with additional problems and saw learning difficulties exacerbated by his situation, leading him to find the interview process tricky to say the least. This put him at a disadvantage to others who were applying for the same position, making him angry, disappointed and de-motivated. It got to the point where Dave told me he felt “useless” and that he “might as well give up”.
We quickly found the support needed and, working with Dave, developed a personalised care plan to find out what would suit him best, linking in with groups that could meet his needs and build skills to successfully put him on a path to employment and improved health and wellbeing.
Other community groups will focus on creating a sense of belonging for the person, working to move them away from any loneliness or anxiety that they may be feeling and more towards physically activity and mental health workshops.
A new sense of purpose, enjoying activities they might not otherwise have tried before and making connections can lessen the impact of long-term conditions and get people engaged. This alone can make a huge difference to an individual and is a great example of society rallying to help each other.
This is why the NHS Long Term Plan is very much focused on social prescribing and community-based support becoming a fundamental part of our health and care system. It means that patients like Dave will continue to have choice and control over the way their care is planned and delivered, helping them to feel part of the solution rather than the problem.
It reminds me of when I was a kid where our family doctor saw the bigger picture of how we lived, could point us in the right direction and often without the need for a prescription pad.
Today as primary care services continue to change it is social prescribing and person-centred care that can now help to fill in the gaps to the ‘bigger picture’. I’ll be forever grateful that health and care services are able to work in this joined-up way as it’s ensured I’m here to tell the tale today.
Our motto at Live Well Wakefield is “with support, you can become the person you’re fighting to be”, so let’s all do our bit and make sure that support is available.