People in Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham are being supported to lead healthier lives, thanks to closer connections between the NHS, local council and charitable and voluntary sector.
Under the borough’s social prescribing service, GPs are able to refer patients for non-medical support alongside existing treatments to improve their health and wellbeing.
This ensures they are signposted to the resources available to them locally – from advice on getting active, eating healthily and losing weight and support in dealing with anxiety and depression to help with housing and financial issues or employment concerns.
Working in this way, more people across the borough are being empowered to take greater control of their own health, meaning less time seeing the GP or waiting for hospital appointments.
To mark International Social Prescribing Day today (Thursday, 14 March), local GPs have teamed up with the borough’s public health team to highlight how this approach can deliver major benefits.
In Barking and Dagenham, two social prescribing initiatives are already changing lives:
Health Unlocked: GPs direct patients to this online service for help in managing long term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Run by Care City on behalf of the council and NHS Barking and Dagenham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), it signposts patients to local services, support from charities and the voluntary sector, and relevant online support.
Practice pilot: Under a six-month pilot, four GP practices are trialling a social prescribing service that enables doctors to refer their patients for a range of non-medical support – including help with housing and employment or tackling loneliness, and financial and educational advice – to address issues affecting their health and wellbeing. It is hoped this pilot will be extended.
Dr Jagan John, a local GP and Chair of Barking and Dagenham CCG, said:
“As well as treating and supporting to people to improve their physical health, as GPs we are very aware that other issues, such as loneliness and isolation or problems with money or housing, can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
“Social prescribing tackles these issues head on by connecting people to the resources that exist all around them – places where they can make friends, get expert help, or both.
“Enabling people to access this help and take greater control of their own health not only improves their quality of life; it also helps us reduce pressure on frontline NHS services.”
Cllr Maureen Worby, Portfolio Holder for Social Care and Health Integration, said: “Barking and Dagenham Council is working with local doctors to ensure that our residents get the right care and support that they need to help them lead healthy and happy lives.
“This more integrated approach means that residents can get the care that is most helpful to them and will have a positive impact on their overall health and wellbeing, with things like housing support, employment and financial advice as well as helping to build social connections throughout our communities.
“Social prescribing is an opportunity to create one community that looks out for each other, and ensures our residents are getting help with the things they need.”
John Craig, Chief Executive, Care City, said: “In addition to promoting healthy lifestyles, public services are very conscious that loneliness and isolation can undermining health and well-being, costing services money. Social prescribing tackles these issues head on.
“This digital approach to social prescribing enables GPs to connect people to the resources that exist all around them – places where they can make friends, get expert help, or both. Digital tools do not replace face-to-face help; on the contrary, they are designed to help people to build the relationships that can make a real difference to their lives.”
For more information on the social prescribing service in Redbridge, speak to your GP practice or visit: https://www.redbridgecvs.net/