New Link Workers join GP Practices to improve local health and wellbeing

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People visit their GPs for a range of different reasons and sometimes these issues can be caused by non-medical matters such as loneliness, anxiety, unemployment, bereavement or other concerns.

Social Prescribing Link Workers, also known as a Social Prescribers, will soon be working in partnership with all GP surgeries locally and the voluntary sector to help people to access appropriate support in the community to help them make positive changes to their personal wellbeing. They are being introduced across GP practices as part of NHS Long term Plan ambition.

Social prescribing is targeted at a range of patients, including those who are socially isolated and those with long term physical and/or mental health conditions. Patients will be encouraged to take control of their health and wellbeing through referral to non-medical ‘link workers’ who will focus on their health and wellbeing needs and prescribe individual health and wellbeing plans. Emerging evidence suggests that social prescribing can improve people’s health and wellbeing and reduce workload for healthcare professionals and demand for secondary care services.

Key responsibilities will include taking referrals from GPs, co-producing personalised support plans with individuals, their families and carers. This service will enable people to take control of their wellbeing, live independently and improve their health outcomes.  It will also provide an understanding of when it is appropriate or necessary to refer people back to other health professionals/agencies, for example when there is a mental health need requiring a qualified practitioner. This way local people can link with their Link Worker representative in their doctor’s surgery directly on any issues that they feel are appropriate to their wellbeing and which are non-clinical. 

Once in place the Social Prescribing Link Workers will work with existing health and wellbeing services across Castle Point and Rochford and the Live Well Link Well Partnership providing local support. The service can be contacted on 0300 3039988. In Southend Everyone Health provide access to a broad range of local activities. To access the service call: 0333 005 0095. 

Patients locally are already benefitting from extra support from Social Prescribing Link Workers at Pall Mall Surgery, Leigh, part of the West Leigh Primary Care Network.

Patient Annette Christmas said: “I found the social prescriber very assuring and surprisingly helpful. The appointment was wonderfully friendly and everything was explained.”

Another patient Phillip Aitchison said: "I didn't know about this service when they booked it for me at the surgery but it’s been brilliant.” 

Tricia D’Orsi, Chief Nurse for NHS Castle Point & Rochford and NHS Southend CCG, said: "The role isn’t just about sign posting people to services it is about ensuring people get the right support from relevant community resources. Through personalised support, Social Prescribing Link Workers can help people who don’t necessarily require clinical treatment, by referring them to community groups and voluntary organisations running a range of activities from benefits advice, singing and cooking classes, to sports activities, gardening and housing help. This will help ease pressure on GPs to make more time available for patients with more complex health needs”.