The success of a West Suffolk project that is improving lives and making people feel better connected to their community is being celebrated this week.
The first National Social Prescribing Day takes place today (Thursday, March 14).
In Haverhill, a social prescribing project called Haverhill LifeLink has been running for just over 18 months during which time it has helped more than 130 people.
Now West Suffolk Councils have invested £500,000 to develop similar Social Prescribing projects for Brandon and Mildenhall as well as expanding the Haverhill initiative. A further £164,000 has been invested by the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group.
Social Prescribing has been found to be an effective way to make a real difference to people’s lives and their wellbeing while reducing pressure on the NHS.
West Suffolk has been leading the way in supporting Social Prescribing which has now seeing a national roll out by NHS England with the recruitment of Link Workers.
Nationally it is thought around a fifth of GP appointments are for social or non-medical issues such as social isolation and loneliness, anxiety and low mood. Social Prescribing works on the basis that for the patient, it can often lead to better outcomes if this issues are ‘treated’ by engaging them with existing community support.
In Haverhill GPs and other services including the Jobcentre can refer people to Haverhill LifeLink. LifeLink, which is overseen by the ONE Haverhill partnership, can help connect people to a pool of more than 150 existing community groups while also identifying and helping establish new groups where required.
One of the people helped by LifeLink said: “I have met new people, got out the house and overall feel more positive. I feel brighter and more upbeat since starting Haverhill LifeLink.”
Robert Everitt, Cabinet Member for Families and Communities at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “Haverhill LifeLink leads to better outcomes for the people being referred – not only do the majority report feeling a better sense of wellbeing, and reduced social isolation and loneliness, but it also makes people feel more supported and more a part of their community. Haverhill LifeLink has also led to increased opportunities in employment, volunteering, training and education – and that can lead to a reduced demand on health services, social care and medication.”
Robin Millar, Forest Heath District Council’s Cabinet Member for Families and Communities, said: “Social Prescribing is about prevention and supporting every person’s journey, so to truly help people feel better in themselves by being supported by their own community. It breaks down the barriers of loneliness, isolation and brings to the surface the value each of us hold, encouraging people feel a part of the community that surrounds them – which can only be a good thing.
“The evidence shows that for the vast majority of people it has had significant benefit to their lives and I’m delighted that we are investing in similar social prescribing projects which are being developed in West Suffolk to be introduced in Brandon and Mildenhall later this year.”
Kate Vaughton, director of Integration and Partnership, NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It is fantastic that the West Suffolk area is pioneering social prescribing as an effective way of supporting people to live happy and healthy lives. The success of this project shows how partnership working between local organisations can result in meaningful outcomes that make a positive difference.
“We are proud to part of this initiative and look forward to social prescribing continuing to deliver real benefits for local people as well as supporting the sustainability of the NHS.”
For more on Haverhill LifeLink visit www.onehaverhill.co.uk/lifelink
Pictured above are LifeLink co-ordinator Charlotte Murphy; Robert Everitt; Lois Wreathall, WSCCG head of primary care; LifeLink co-ordinators Robert Jones and Elaine Hewes; Robin Millar; Suzanne Stevenson, Social Prescribing project manager at West Suffolk Councils; and Theresa McNeil, from St Nicholas Hospice Care who are celebrating the success of social prescribing in Haverhill.