Learning points: The day encompassed a practice visit to New Wortley, a deprived region in South East Leeds, which bordered Armley to the West, and Holbeck to the East. The work of the former GP partner, Dr Andy Sixsmith had focused on the importance of the GP practice in the community, as a safe place to go to obtain advice, help and treatment. With funding obtained, a new community centre was built next to the medical practice with the idea that residents of the community could benefit from the symbiotic relationship between the GP practice and the community centre, with the sense that if the overall wellbeing of the community could be improved, this would have a positive impact on the health of the community as a whole and thus even reduce GP attendance and workload. The notion of the popularity of social prescribing is a newer construct, but in reality, attempts like these to connect health to the heartbeat of the community have been commonplace in pockets of the country for a number of years. We first met the community link worker and social worker, who helped staff the community centre, and John Battle, a retired MP for Armley who ran the men’s walking club, a permanent Friday fixture for men suffering mental health problems or isolation. This then led to meeting the practice community link worker and the PEP worker (Patient empowerment Project) who worked for the local practice federation as a type of social prescriber. These highlighted the large scope of her work for those requiring extra support with finance, housing or mental wellbeing, with 90 minute appointments and two follow up appointments being offered. We also met two members off the executive board from Community Links, a mental health charity commission by the CCG with a brief of providing support via social prescribing, who are now opening wellbeing cafés as a drop in service for people experiencing mental health problems to talk about their problems. The day as a whole was a really rewarding experience, and demonstrated the power and importance of community activation within a patient population to help improve long term health outcomes.
Reflection The impact of the day shaped my thinking of how in the future I would like to be involved in shaping services to reflect meaningful wellbeing provision to the local community. It built on my previous meetings with social prescribing hubs to realise the importance of not just working with supplementary services, but utilising them within teams. At future practice meetings and pending involvement at partnership level, my vision would be one of utilising link workers directly employed by a practice group or federation to cover a patient population, rather than as a separate organisation. The day also invigorated my sense of serving a local population as a community practitioner and allowed me to think of ways I could do something on a local level – for instance, setting up walking groups. Following the day, I have signposted more patients to social prescribing groups and projects than I previously had done in the past so I think the day has impacted my practice and will continue to do so.
Date of visit- 5th April 2019
Dr Mathew Fortnam