Dr Katie Burgass

Social Prescribing Visit

Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Services

I met with Allison Palmer, the partnership officer and one of the community advisors at Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS). She told me about the service that had been running for the last 45 years and was seen as a “hub” for voluntary services in the local area. In the last 3-4 years they have developed the social prescribing and community advisor roles with funding from the Bassetlaw CCG.

The social prescribing role is for those aged 65 years and over that are felt to need more social input, most commonly due to loneliness and lack of community involvement. They are required to be referred by healthcare professionals and start with an initial 2 hour visit at home where their needs are assessed. Following this they are supported for 12 weeks in accessing the services they have been signposted to, they are given transport costs and chaperoned for their first 1-2 visits to help build confidence. They are then followed up 12 weeks after the input has ended and assessed in terms of ongoing engagement but also impact on GP/A&E attendances. On evaluation 2/3rds of those who have gone through the program have remained engaged with the services they were encouraged to attend.

In contrast the community advisor role is for anyone under the age of 65 years and can accept self-referrals. They can do assessments on the phone or meet for a face to face appointment and run a morning drop in session at a number of our surgeries. They are mostly involved in signposting to groups but can help make the initial email / phone call to encourage engagement. The level of support isn’t as great as the social prescribing group but they feel the age cut off will drop due to the governments new 10 year plan.

BCVS also runs Bassetlaw health, a website with information on 75 voluntary sector groups in the local area. They monitor which subjects are searched for to tailor the service to the community’s needs.

A few weeks after my initial trip to BCVS I attended 2 visits with Sarah, one of the social prescribers, to see how they performed their initial assessments. She enquired about subjects such as mental and physical health, finances, social support and engagement and safety in the home. During the two visits she was able to offer a wide range of different support recommendations including bereavement counselling, a car service, support with benefits, gym membership, silver line (a telephone service for older people) and a support group for those with reduced vision. It was really helpful to accompany a visit and see the broad range of services that could be offered. 

I found it really useful going to speak to Allison and her team about what BCVS do. I have often given out the leaflet for using the community advisor service for patients but often wondered whether they would actually engage with the service. Now I know more about it I feel I could “sell” the service better to patients. I wasn’t aware of the social prescribing or Bassetlaw health website which are two really useful resources I will definitely use within practice. It was also interesting comparing what services we have here to those in other areas e.g. the Hope Citadel Focussed care workers. Alison discussed her vision of integrating a well-being centre into the hospital to try and engage those requiring help at secondary care level also which I thought was a brilliant idea.

I presented this information to the Trailblazers at a later session where we discussed and compared the different ranges of social prescribing that was available in out different areas. It was interesting comparing what was available and there was significant variation in who was able to access what depending on where you lived. We discussed the importance of linking the voluntary sector with the health sector as it is often the communication channels that are lacking, and how the new primary care networks may be able to help with this in the future.

Date of visit: 15th March 2019

Dr Katie Burgass