Case study summary
People with low mood and long term health conditions are benefitting from a unique partnership aimed at improving patient wellbeing and reducing pressure on doctors.
So far GPs have referred around 50 people to Haverhill LifeLink, which helps with low level mental health issues such as loneliness and anxiety or those with social isolation, wanting to improve their life skills or long term health conditions.
Once referred by their GP nurse, or self-referral, patients meet with a LifeLink Coordinator who spends some time getting to know them and helping them connect with people and activities in their area.
The two-year social prescribing project, a pilot scheme run by ONE Haverhill Partnership and St Edmundsbury Borough Council and involving a number of partner agencies, has seen instant results, with participants and GPs in the town championing the scheme.
One disabled patient, who was encouraged to join community activities in favour of traditional medicine, says it changed his life.
John was referred by his GP due to his low mood as he was getting bored at home, and is already benefitting from attending a weekly lunch group. He said: “LifeLink has made a difference to my life because I have met new people, got out of the house and feel more positive overall. I feel brighter and more upbeat since starting with Haverhill LifeLink.”
The programme aims to reduce pressure on GPs and the NHS by reducing repeat GP appointments, wider NHS appointments and prescription costs and increasing employment opportunities.
It is an example of the benefits which can be achieved when health and care services, including the CCG, Local Government and community partnerships, work together to integrate care by tailoring the solution to the needs of the individual.
Lois Wreathall, Head of Primary Care at NHS West Suffolk CCG, said: “With around one in five visits to the GP made for social needs such as isolation, debt management, low mood and anxiety, Haverhill LifeLink has already started making a positive difference.
“Some people visit their GP because they are not well connected in their communities and need to improve their quality of life. Haverhill LifeLink provides a bridge to help them re-engage with community groups while improving their health and wellbeing.”
Cllr Robert Everitt, portfolio holder for Families and Communities at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “It is thought that half of people aged 75 and over now live alone, with many saying they can go days, even weeks, with no social interaction at all. Indeed, people of all ages can find themselves facing a similar situation.
“That is going to have a strong influence on how you feel, and it is interesting that a 2017 report said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Haverhill has a strong sense of community and the support Haverhill Lifelink provides in finding something suitable to take part in, is made possible by the wide range of activities already going on in the town. I am proud of Haverhill’s leadership with social prescribing and wish the scheme every continuing success.”
The £130,000 project was funded by Public Health, Suffolk County Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government and builds on ONE Haverhill Partnership’s priority to improve health and access to services in the town.
GPs and self-referral are the current methods into LifeLink and this is to be extended to the hospitals (secondary care) so other health practitioners can have an easy link for those who would benefit.