Social prescribing scheme helps people improve wellbeing

James Woods and Karen Davis

James Woods and Karen Davis. - Credit: BNSSG CCG

People across North Somerset are being supported to improve their wellbeing through social prescribing schemes run by GP practices.

With a social prescription, patients are connected with Link Workers who support people who may be struggling with problems such as social isolation or anxiety by connecting them to services in the community which can help.

Each patient who is referred typically has six sessions with the Link Worker who is able to spend more time with a patient than a GP would during an appointment.

The scheme is run by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group. 

James Woods is a Senior Link Worker at Gordano & Mendip Primary Care Network and employed by housing association Curo. He and his team of two other Link Workers support patients across the network’s nine GP practices.

James, who has cerebral palsy and is a full time wheelchair user, said being a Link Worker gives him the opportunity to support others.

He said: “I feel I have been fortunate in my life and this is a chance for me to give back to others. I use determination and tenacity to find ways around problems I face and I am able to share that with others who are struggling. I really love the job and being able to help people.”

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Social prescribing recognises that people's health and wellbeing is affected by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, and that the most effective prescriptions do not always come in the form of medication.

Social prescribing starts with an assessment of the patient’s current situation and then the Link Worker can suggest services in the community which can help, ranging from counselling services to physical activity groups.

James said: “It has been harder during the pandemic because some of the services that we would normally refer people to are not running. Also, prior to the pandemic, more than 70 per cent of patients asked to see us in their homes or at the surgery. We still offer to do this but in the majority of case we have been supporting people with phone appointments.

“Most of the people we are supporting need help with depression, anxiety and isolation and we are hoping that it won’t be long now until we will start to see people again in their own homes.”

Karen Davis, from Portishead, was referred to James last year as she was feeling very isolated and struggling with her mental health.

Karen said: “The service has been fantastic, especially during these difficult times. I really hit rock bottom but James helped me to get some things sorted out and this helped my mental health to improve. I would recommend the social prescribing scheme to anyone who is struggling.”

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