With social prescribing day taking place on 9 March, the local NHS is celebrating the success of non-medical community support provided to improve the health and wellbeing of south west Londoners.
The fifth national awareness day – run by the National Academy for Social Prescribing – is being used to showcase the huge amount of work taking place to connect people with community activities and services that improve their health and wellbeing.
Social prescribing begins with a referral from a GP in south west London to a social prescribing link worker. Link workers listen to people and try to understand their situation, and what matters to them so they can put that person in touch with a range of local, non-medical activities, opportunities and support that can improve their health.
There are also other people in the community, including youth workers or faith leaders, who can identify people who may need support and help them connect to relevant activities, groups or services.
Through conversation people can explore the different options available to them in their local community, including social groups where they can meet other people and learn a new skill or get more physically active.
This, in turn, can help manage mental health or stress, improve general physical health and reduce loneliness. Link workers also help with practical solutions, including helping people get information and support around employment, benefits and housing or legal advice.
In south west London there are nearly 70 social prescribing link workers, who work with around 14,000 people each year.
- A woman in Croydon who had had less money as she couldn’t work following a major operation who was helped to organise yoga sessions and get NHS mental health advice to address her feelings of depression and being isolated.
- A link worker, Pip Thorne, who wished she had the type of support she provides in Wandsworth to connect her with services to help as she slowly recovered from a head injury seven years earlier.
- Social prescriber Zerrin Buckle regularly joining the team at a weekly Living Well Hub, which has been a designated warm space for local residents during winter, in a church hall in New Malden to offer support and advice to people who may be feeling worried or anxious or those with financial problems or simply in need of conversation.
- A 75-year-old Sutton woman who was put in touch with a befriending service and other local social inclusion groups to help with her feelings of loneliness and isolation due to be confined to one room due to mobility issues.
- Wellbeing Co-ordinator Jess McGreal who meets people in Richmond in a variety of ways, from visiting local community centres, organising health fairs and meeting people in public spaces not linked with GP surgeries, to provide support.
Dr Mohan Sekeram, a clinical lead for social prescribing at NHS South West London, said: “We all go through times in our lives when we could do with that extra bit of support.
“All these examples – and countless others in south west London – showcase the huge amount of work link workers do to help people because there are many things that affect our health and wellbeing that can’t be treated by doctors alone.
“From loneliness to financial pressures and stress, they can connect people to non-medical support in communities that can change the circumstances that make them feel unwell in the first place.”
Further information on various schemes and case studies are available at:
Ten minutes with link worker Kelly Walker – South West London ICS
Social prescribing helping people take control in Wandsworth – South West London ICS
Social Prescribing in Richmond – South West London ICS
Supporting people to take control of their health and wellbeing in Sutton – South West London ICS
Community support at sessions in Croydon church hall – South West London ICS
Winter living support at Croydon’s NHS Community Pop-in – South West London ICS