Social prescribers from Rockingham Forest Primary Care Network draw on their diverse experience to help patients with issues including healthcare, debt, substance misuse, mental health and bereavement.
Social prescribing is a new discipline, introduced by Primary Care Networks, which are local partnerships of GP practices. They encourage multi-agency working involving healthcare providers, social services, local organisations, charities and the voluntary sector.
The service is proving very popular with more than 2,000 patients from Kettering and Corby having consultations over the past year. Feedback has been positive and the service complements and extends the 'traditional' care that medical practices offer.
Team members Sam Hendry, Linsey Carson, Paula Kelly and Caroline Shoveller have a wide range of professional experience and meet regularly to discuss strategies and successes.
Sam said; 'What starts as a regular conversation with a patient can highlight other issues … There has definitely been more isolation, loneliness and anxiety since the pandemic started.'
Linsey said: 'I used to work in criminal justice and, although this is a very different arena, there can be common issues around accommodation, finance and mental health. It is about supporting patients of all ages to get better outcomes.'
Caroline, whose background is in Citizens' Advice, said: 'It is a great job, we love it, it is nice to be able to help and support people and we really work closely as a team.'
Paula was a receptionist then healthcare assistant before joining the social prescribing team. She is now a care co-ordinator for the PCN, working with those classed as severely frail: 'You can see someone from start to finish and see how they have progressed and their life has improved.'
Team leader Kareema McCarthy said: 'Some patients just need one or two appointments while others may need longer term support. It is very rewarding to see the progress that they make. We tailor their care individually and that could include more physical exercise, such as taking part in an organised health walk, mindfulness exercises, or being put in touch with other support agencies. Patients often take the time to give us individual feedback about how our intervention has made a real difference to them.'
The team helps patients with: weight management and gym, mild mental health issues, community engagement, loneliness and isolation, financial difficulties, substance misuse, accommodation, adult social care, bereavement, stopping smoking, befriending, counselling and occupational therapy.
The Northants Stop Smoking team said: 'A huge thank you to you and your colleagues for the volume of referrals you've sent our way this year. Since April Lakeside has referred more than 100 patients to the Northamptonshire Stop Smoking Service, and many of them have gone on to successfully stop smoking with our support. Lakeside is one of the top referring practices in the county, and for that we are truly grateful.'