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“It needed someone like you to kick start me”

— Resident linked to a Connector

Social Prescribing

There is increasing interest in social prescribing as a way of addressing the challenge represented by the large number of people struggling with underlying social problems vising their GP for medical solutions.

We use the term social prescribing to describe a system whereby primary care providers (GPs) introduce those patients with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sector. We organise this process through an introduction to a team of trained Community Connectors.

Our connectors take time to listen to referred individuals, and to build a holistic picture of what for them constitutes a good life. They then work together to decide how to move towards their goals.

Social prescribing can help introduce vulnerable people to new opportunities for making friends, getting active, and joining in within their local community.

The kinds of activities this might involve include:

  • Knitting groups
  • Walk and talk
  • Debt management services
  • Men’s Sheds Schemes
  • Volunteering opportunities

It might also involve less formal connections between people who share an interest, or between neighbours looking out for each other.

There is no single pathway. There are no fixed rules. There is empathy, creativity, and a detailed knowledge of local neighbourhoods, which come together to build a bespoke plan for engagement.

A Holistic Approach

The Wellbeing Exeter partnership recognises that people (not patients) want a life not a service and the purpose of the partnership is to help people on a journey from dependence on medical (or other statutory) services, through a safe and supported period of transition, into increased involvement with their local community and then having a richer and more fulfilled interdependent life with neighbours and friends.

The programme’s three-pronged approach works like this:

One

Exeter GP practices refer patients they believe would benefit from increased social activity to their trusted Community Connector.

Two

The Connector works with the individual to identify what matters to them, and plan a way forward. Together, they start to engage with the local community. The Connector might introduce people to activities and organisations within their neighbourhoods, and may accompany them initially. On average individuals work for around 6 weeks with their Connectors but this varies depending on individual needs and wishes. This process is known as social prescribing (see ab0ve).

Three

Simultaneously, Community Builders are working within communities, identifying social resources, stimulating activity, and helping those communities to thrive and develop. This builds communities’ capacity to offer opportunities to residents for connection and interdependence. Community Builders are a great resource for Community Connectors to help discover what might be on offer for participating individuals.