As part of my trailblazer role, I met with the local operations manager of the local social prescribing service, Connect Well. The purpose of the meeting was to forge a good working relationship which may benefit us mutually in the future. This would hopefully improve my understanding and knowledge of the service and also to help inform the service of potential areas for service improvement regarding increasing their visibility in primary care and maximising utility. I learnt primarily about the scope of the service locally which enabled me to consider how I may be able to incorporate their service into my management. I commonly encounter patients where medical problems exist, but their overriding difficulties may well be based within a social problem or context.
From experience trying to separate interpersonal and social problems from a patient’s presentation is rarely productive and I increasingly viewing patients through a different lens of establishing their presentation on a continuum of wellbeing and fulfilment and explaining their routes to recovery, rather than focusing on curative outcomes. I learnt specifically that the service not only exists to help patients with difficulties with housing, finances, benefits and support but provides a holistic service to help patients with specific interests and to engage them back into social interaction to improve their mental wellbeing. Specific examples included tailored groups which were available in the Hull area, such as Andy’s Man Club, a group for men with mental health problems to meet once a week and share stories to gain collective strength, or Men in Sheds, a group for isolated males who want to reconnect and learn new skills, walking groups, park runs, new mum groups, breastfeeding support, community centres, voluntary groups to help people back into work, groups tailored to particular ethnic minorities to find friends and support and lots more.
We then talked about how we may be able to help improve the utilisation of the service with the consideration of how to increase referral rates when GP time is pressed.
I agreed that I would help organise educational meetings at the practice to widen the knowledge base and understanding of the service, whilst I have also help organise the team to perform sessions for the local VTS scheme to increase understanding of the registrars of the services the social prescribing team offer and how to access their services.
The meeting has not only reinforced my knowledge and understanding of the positive benefits of social prescribing but has allowed me to think about patient care in a different way and I have since been more open in talking about the possible options for patients which don’t necessarily involve medical investigation or treatment. Recently I have been able to signpost myself to some of the above services and groups but I also was able to refer a patient to the service who was increasingly lonely and nervous about getting out of the house unaccompanied. We were able to sort a visiting service which meant he could go for a walk with a regular visitor and have a friendly chat over a coffee which really improved his symptoms of anxiety.
Date of visit: 22 March 2019
Dr Mathew Fortnam