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Social prescribing reducing loneliness and increasing physical activity

User AvatarPosted by Daniel Harper at 08/07/2019 08:30:46

People are feeling less lonely and better supported thanks to a scheme being trialled by the NHS in west Kent, in partnership with the charity Involve Kent.

Over the last six months, five social prescribing link workers have been placed in five GP practices in west Kent as part of Involve Kent’s Connect for Wellbeing scheme.

Specialist staff and volunteers are available to help patients with social, emotional or practical needs by helping them to connect with groups or activities that appeal to them – reducing social isolation and getting people more active.

The link workers also work closely with staff in the district and borough councils and local Citizens Advice Bureau to make sure that anyone whose health has been affected by practical problems, such as housing and debt, can get the help they need more quickly.

To mark National Social Prescribing Link Worker Day (8 July), the early findings from the three-year pilot scheme, are being shared.

They show that all people (100 per cent) who identified as ‘most severely lonely and isolated’ felt a significant improvement, and as many as 62 per cent of people felt more socially connected and less lonely. 

The data also reveals that the new scheme is helping people to increase the amount of physical activity that they do each week, by connecting people with local groups, such as walking groups or allotment projects.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of people who took part in the programme, many of whom were inactive, increased their levels of physical activity, by an average of 90 minutes a week.

Dr Bob Bowes, Chair of West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (WK CCG) said:

“Not all health issues can be fixed with medicines. In some cases, a person’s ill health is linked to social and environmental factors.

“Loneliness and inactivity can have an extremely negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. Helping patients to address these underlying issues has a positive effect on their life and their health overall.

“We are very pleased to be working with Involve Kent on this important piece of work. Through their Connect for Wellbeing Scheme, social prescriber link workers are able to offer patients a range of alternative services and schemes to help improve health and wellbeing. Examples include cookery classes and healthy eating advice, volunteering, or sports and exercise groups. The results are very positive.”

Charlotte Osborn-Forde, Chief Executive Officer, Involve Kent said:

“We are really excited to share the early findings from our social prescribing pilot, which demonstrates the significant impact social prescribing can have for patients, building their confidence, resilience and motivation, and enabling them to reconnect with their communities.

“Working with the NHS as an integral partner has enabled us to reach people at the right time, and support clinicians with addressing the social, emotional and mental health needs of their patients, working in a holistic way.

“Our trained link workers are employed to give people time to reflect on their health and wellbeing and identify what matters to them, making use of local groups and services to solve problems or enrich their lives.”

Link workers help a wide range of people including those that have one or more long-term medical conditions or those that may need support with their mental health. They can help people who feel lonely or isolated or have complex social needs such as housing and debt.

People with specific long-term conditions such as cancer or visual impairment, that might affect their overall wellbeing, can also benefit from the support social prescribing link workers provide.