• Social prescribing supporting a growing number of people
  • University academic hails ‘good practice’ in Gloucestershire

Over 2,500 people across Gloucestershire have benefitted from an innovative social prescribing scheme as a result of joint working between the NHS, local councils and a range of voluntary organisations and community groups.

Social prescribing is an approach which links people who attend their GP surgery with non-medical needs to sources of support in communities, often provided by voluntary and charitable organisations and local groups and activities.

Dr Simon Opher MBE, Clinical Lead for Social Prescribing at NHS Gloucestershire CCG said:

“Social prescribing helps people who don’t necessarily need medical care, with GPs referring to sources of community support and community activities to help improve the individual’s wellbeing.

It supports people with issues such as coping with caring responsibilities, loneliness and low level mental health issues through community-based activities such as exercise on prescription, art groups or volunteering to help other people. This can have an immensely positive impact on people’s lives.”

Markus White, who lives in The Forest of Dean, said that social prescribing really helped turn his life around:

“My experience of social prescribing has been completely positive. My life was quite difficult due to a break-up which left me homeless. Social prescribing helped me get somewhere to live. I really felt supported, like someone was on my side. Now I feel able to look forward, and have a more positive outlook.”

Councillor Kathy Williams, lead cabinet member for long-term care at Gloucestershire County Council said:

“The scheme has had a really positive impact on individuals, while at the same time it gives a boost to our communities. It’s a great example of what can be achieved when local organisations work together and something that we’re very proud of in Gloucestershire.”

Dr Richard Kimberlee, a Public Health Economist at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), has been evaluating Gloucestershire’s social prescribing pilot, and found the county’s approach successful in helping to reduce GP appointments and emergency admissions via A&E as well as improving people’s wellbeing and getting people back into work or volunteering.

About the work in Gloucestershire, Dr Kimberlee, founding member of the Social Prescribing Network of UK and Ireland, said:

“I’m very much convinced of the great benefits social prescribing brings to GP practices, particularly among those patients taking up a lot of resources. These are patients who make a lot of GP visits for many reasons, some of which will be non-medical while others will be for problems that can be effectively self-managed with support.

The pressure on health service providers and their partners is exponentially growing and they need to think quickly to stem the tide. The social prescribing approach can be part of the solution by triggering cultural change within primary care.”

A range of new technologies are also being used more widely to help patients manage their long-term condition.

One example of this is Mapmydiabetes, a new online education and support resource for people with Type 2 diabetes, currently available in Gloucester and the Forest of Dean.

Dr Caroline Bennett, Clinical Lead for Diabetes at NHS Gloucestershire CCG said:

“Mapmydiabetes contains lots of useful information about diabetes that helps patients to understand and manage their condition better. This is really important as it reduces the likelihood of suffering from complications such as heart problems and sight loss.

It enables patients to learn about diabetes, record and track their progress and share information with their GP or Practice Nurse, without needing to make an appointment. The system is very easy to use, and patients can access it at home or out and about on laptops tablets and mobile devices.”

Paul Noble, a patient with type 2 diabetes from Gloucester who uses Mapmydiabetes, said:

“Mapmydiabetes helps me look at how I manage my whole day-to-day lifestyle to actually control my diabetes. It has been the turning point for me. I now understand all the activities I need to take care of, such as salt in my diet, the type of food I eat, my activities and my blood pressure. Doing this means that my diabetes takes care of itself.

We were measuring appointments in weeks; now we’re looking at months, and the amount of time I spend with my nurse is far less.”

Preventing ill health, helping people to be healthy and well at home and enhancing community-based support are key themes within Gloucestershire’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).

To read more about the STP and find out about how you can get involved, visit the STP website at: www.gloucestershireSTP.net