A social prescribing project has helped improve the lives of hundreds of West Suffolk residents and has saved the NHS thousands of pounds.
LifeLink was established to achieve better outcomes for people living with loneliness, poor self-esteem, low mood and anxiety by helping them through coaching support and involving them in community groups and support available on their doorstep.
All that in turn, reduces some of the dependency on trips to the GP, prescription costs and hospital admissions, a saving that has been estimated to run into thousands of pounds.
LifeLink began as a pilot in Haverhill in 2018 funded and supported by West Suffolk Council, the government and Suffolk County Council.
It grew to include Brandon and Mildenhall in October through funding from Suffolk Public Sector Leaders and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group – and then expanded to cover the rest of West Suffolk in February 2020 thanks to funding from GP practices that form the Primary Care Networks in West Suffolk. LifeLink adapted its delivery so that it continued to support participants during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Between April 2019 and July 1 this year, LifeLink has seen more than 500 people.
Of those that took part in surveys to measure their progress with LifeLink, the vast majority showed an improvement to their sense of wellbeing.
Around two thirds of the people who were referred to LifeLink have either a disability, long term condition or frailty. Of those that took part in a survey, 86 per cent felt more empowered and motivated to take the steps to better manage their condition. That in turn reduces some of their likely need for NHS services such as GP appointments, hospital visits, treatments and medicines.
Using data from nine per cent of LifeLink participants surveyed and methodology from Health Foundation research, it is estimated that LifeLink has at a very minimum, saved the NHS more than £8,500 in costs per year, although the true savings are likely to be much more when the all LifeLink participants are included which is work that is underway.
John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “I’m delighted that the new and growing West Suffolk LifeLink teams are having such as positive impact. It is absolutely clear that the vast majority of people that are referred to LifeLink not only see improvements to their wellbeing but are more motivated and better equipped to look after their own physical and mental health. That in turn has huge potential going forward in terms of achieving better and more sustained outcomes for the people we see and in escalating the level of savings to the NHS through reduced demand for appointments and medicines. I look forward to its continuing development and success.”
Dr Christopher Browning, Chair of the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I am heartened to hear about all the instances in which our patients have been helped by the West Suffolk Lifelink teams. My GP colleagues are grateful for the service and those who have the responsibility for deciding how it should go forward are enthusiastically considering ways in which even more patients can derive benefit.”
LifeLink partners include Abbeycroft Leisure, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, ONE Haverhill Partnership, Suffolk County Council, JobCentrePlus, West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, West Suffolk Citizen’s Advice, the West Suffolk Primary Care Network and West Suffolk Council.
To find out more visit www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/community/lifelink