Under NHS England plans, more than 1,000 specially trained ‘social prescribers’ are set to be hired by 2020-21.
NHS Northamptonshire CCGs are leading the way in this pioneering scheme which will see specially trained workers prescribe individual health and wellbeing plans alongside any medical care provided by the GP.
A recruitment campaign to hire eleven ‘Social Prescriber Link Workers’ has now been launched by Northampton Health and Care Partnership to fill roles within general practices across the county. This is the the first time that GP practices have worked together to jointly promote this new, exciting NHS role.
The 11 Northamptonshire Primary Care Networks involved in the campaign are:
- Northamptonshire Rural PCN (Practices include: Crick, Byfield, Greens Norton & Weedon, Long Buckby, Saxon Spires)
- Daventry PCN (Practices include: Abbey and Danetre)
- Blue PCN (Practices include: St Lukes, Bugbrooke, Park Avenue, County, Brook)
- Royal Parks PCN (Practices include: Kingsthorpe, Langham Place, The Pines, Queensview, Kings Heath)
- Rockingham Forest PCN (Practices include: Lakeside Corby, Studfall and Headlands)
- Brackley & Towcester PCN (Practices include: Brackley, Towcester, Brook and Springfield)
- Kettering & Southwest Rural PCN (Practices include: Drylands, Mawsley and Burton)
- M-WEB PCN (Practices include: Moulton, Woodview, Earls Barton, Penvale)
- ARC HUB PCN (Practices include: Eleanor Cross, Rillwood, Danes Camp)
- Grand Union PCN (Practices include: Abington, Greenview, Abington Park, King Edward Road, Leicester Terrace Health and Care Centre)
- MMWF PCN (Practices include: The Mounts, Maple Access, Weston Favell (Dr Dias), Weston Favell (Dr Molla), Favell Plus
What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing is targeted at a range of patients, who perhaps may be socially isolated, or have long term physical and/or mental health conditions.
While GPs will continue to support them with medical care, patients will also be encouraged to take control of their health and wellbeing through referral to non-medical ‘link workers’. These social prescribers will focus on an individual’s practical health and wellbeing needs, prescribing an individual health and wellbeing plan to meet these needs.
Prescribed plans are individual to each patient and can cover activities like voluntary work, referrals to other agencies who can provide benefits and housing advice or even even singing and cooking classes, as well as referring patients for practical help with things like gardening and support to change habits such as quitting smoking or increasing exercise.
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[i].
Catherine Wills, Workforce Programme Manager at Northampton Health and Care Partnership said,
“All practices within Northamptonshire have come together to work in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and are working to support their local population. As part of this many PCNs are recruiting their first Social Prescribing Link Workers, a role that empowers people to take control of their own health and wellbeing.
“Through personalised support, social prescribers 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, gardening and housing help. This will ease pressure on GPs. We look forward to receiving applications for our first recruits in social prescribing.”
Key responsibilities for the role include taking referrals from GPs and making referrals to a wide range of agencies within primary care networks, co-producing personalised support plans with individuals, their families and carers to help them take control of their wellbeing, live independently and improve their health outcomes.
Skills needed for the role
Skills needed for the role include a strong awareness and understanding of when it is appropriate or necessary to refer people back to other health professionals/agencies, when what the person needs is beyond the scope of the link worker role – e.g. when there is a mental health need requiring a qualified practitioner.
Dr Toby Rose from Burton Latimer Medical Centre, a busy practice with 14,000 patients, which is part Kettering & South West Rural PCN says it’s a hugely valuable and much needed role which will make a big difference to general practice.
Dr Rose explains,
“Every practice has people with complex socio-economic problems, but we only get 10 minutes per patient. This isn’t long enough to understand what help they may need and know where to direct them. To have a social prescriber on the team whose job is to focus on these patients is going to be hugely beneficial to our patients.”
“The social prescriber will keep up to date with all the services available locally, which can change weekly and are impossible for GPs to keep track of. Local knowledge is key to responding to different needs. For instance, ours is a rural practice where we see a lot of social isolation, whereas other practices in towns and cities may have patients that have issues caused by social deprivation.
“Northamptonshire NHS is unique in recruiting social prescribers across the county at scale. This will create a valuable network of social prescribers who can link up and share information across the different PCNs. This joined up approach will allow PCNs to work more closely and ensure patients are referred to the right services. We are really excited about recruiting our first social prescriber.”
Dr David Smart, a GP Partner at Leicester Terrace Health Care Centre has promoted positive wellbeing for the past 20 years. He is the lead for mental health and wellbeing at the General Practice Alliance (GPA) Federation in Northampton, which covers three PCNs.
Dr Smart says,
“Recruiting social prescribers is a key development in Primary Care Network that could transform patients’ health and wellbeing. This is not fluffy stuff and it’s something we’re passionate about it.
“Changing people’s behaviour so they eat more healthily, exercise regularly and stop smoking can make 40% difference to health outcomes, whereas the NHS makes about 10%. The role isn’t just about sign posting people to services, it is about ensuring get the right support from relevant community resources and managing that process. We are delighted that each PCN is recruiting a social prescriber and in time, we hope this is just the start and that in the future, more candidates will be recruited.”
“Social prescribing could be key to improving people’s happiness and wellbeing in Northampton and helping them flourish. We promote the ’10 keys to happiness’ from the charity Action for Happiness to our patients and to our GPs to increase their resilience. We know how effective this can be, particularly for people with mild depression. Furthermore, many GP practices are on their knees and having social prescribers will reduce the number of patients in primary care and alleviate some of the pressures.”
The deadline for applications is 21st July 2019. For more information and to apply click here.