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Local GP surgeries and other services joining forces to increase ‘social prescribing’

People living across Preston, Chorley and South Ribble will benefit from a new approach being adopted by local GP surgeries which aims to better support peoples’ non-medical needs.

It is estimated that around half of all GP appointments are not directly related to medical conditions, according to experts.

The plan, which comes as surgeries across the whole central Lancashire area begin to work closer together in their local areas through what is also referred to as ‘networks’, will include ‘link workers’ being available in each of these areas to support patients in accessing the support that they might need.

These newly introduced link workers were identified as a key priority within the recently published NHS Long Term Plan and will be pivotal to helping deliver a new, but well regarded approach for patients called social prescribing.

Social prescribing is a way of enabling GPs and other health and care professionals to connect patients to community activities, networks and non-clinical services that can help to meet their social, emotional or practical needs; with the help of a dedicated link worker. 

Social prescribing recognises that people’s health is determined by a range of social, environmental and economic factors.  Social prescribing can include many things, such as help with:

  • managing debt
  • finding a job or housing
  • befriending and lunch clubs
  • leisure activities, getting outdoors and exercising
  • gardening/animal care
  • crafts groups
  • anything else available through local charities, organisations, community or voluntary groups.

Dr Lindsey Dickinson, a local doctor and GP Director at NHS Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Every day I see people with a wide range of different health complaints. But often, many of these people have other underlying and complex reasons which contribute towards their overall ill-health and many of these are non-medical, usually linked to their social or domestic circumstances.

“By connecting people with local community services, support groups and activities through social prescribing we can help to improve people’s health and wellbeing as well as increasing their independence and making the most of community assets. It should also in turn allow GPs to focus their time and expertise on treating people’s immediate health needs.”

People who could benefit from the approach will be referred to the ‘link worker’ based within their GP practices’ network. The link worker will then arrange a face-to-face meeting with the patient in order to better understand their needs; discuss relevant possibilities; and, support them in the early stages of their engagement with the local service. The desire is to get the best outcome for each patient through a personally tailored ‘social prescription’. Benefits for patients can include better quality of life, improved mental health and wellbeing and lower levels of depression and anxiety.

The social prescribing approach is made possible by the local health and care organisations in central Lancashire working much more closely together through what is known as an Integrated Care Partnership. This sees, local NHS organisations, local councils and organisations across the voluntary, community and faith sector all working together to develop better ways of working and make the best use of joint resources.

The work has also been accelerated in the wider Lancashire and South Cumbria area  through what is also known as a Population Health Management approach ebbing introduced. This involves local services using information which is already held about people to look at the best way to help them live longer, with personalised care tailored to their needs. One example is using data to identify people who have multiple long term conditions and understanding the ways in which they can be supported to prevent complications and live independently.

For more information about the central Lancashire partnership and other work happening across the wider Lancashire and South Cumbria area please visit www.healthierlsc.co.uk.

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