We are really just getting off the ground here in Middlesbrough and in fact COVID has encouraged more buy-in to the need for non-medicalised support for our frail and vulnerable patients, along with the need to work more collaboratively.
In response to the pandemic our link workers moved into more of a hub-based approach, and we accepted that for a period certain aspects of our more holistic approach wouldn’t be able to happen.
We have targeted set patient groups to proactively check in, provide therapeutic support, signpost and ensure support is in place. For example, contacting cohorts such as the severely frail, and people with low incomes or anxiety/depression. There are some really lovely examples of ways in which this has supported patients:
82-year-old lady is the main carer for her 84-year-old husband, who has incontinence. Usually she manages by doing lots of washing, along with getting lots of spare clothes from charity shops for those items which she just cannot save. During lockdown she couldn’t get hold of these, and so was struggling to keep up with the levels of washing and becoming exhausted. So our link workers managed to get together a delivery of old trousers from a local voluntary group to help top up her supplies.
A 79-year-old gentleman lives alone. He is fairly stoic and managing ok, but he tends to pass the time reading Cowboy and Western books. He would normally get them from the library or charity shops but couldn’t get out. After lots of searching our link worker managed to put together a collection of donated books, which she picked up in a church car park and then dropped to the patient’s house; all socially distanced of course. He was delighted, and is happily working his way through them!
Next steps – the future of social prescribing
We are now looking at moving to post COVID ie not just firefighting or crisis management but helping to change the rhetoric, living with and beyond COVID, accepting the changes and supporting our patients in this new environment.