A project which has helped over 1,000 people with problems such as social isolation, debt and housing difficulties is to be rolled out across Adur and Worthing.
Launched just 30 months ago, the Going Local project has proved so successful that it is set to expand from six across the area to all six surgeries in Adur and eight in Worthing.
Known as ‘social prescribing’, the project allows GPs to refer patients to Going Local if they think that non-medical problems might also be impacting on their health. Those referred are helped to identify solutions to problems ranging from housing, employment and financial worries to loneliness, bereavement and lifestyle issues.
Going Local’s ‘Community Referrers’ help patients seek solutions and access local resources. Patients have been encouraged to join local social groups and clubs, and volunteer with local charities. They have also been referred to specialist organisations which can give them further advice.
The staff who take up the cases after they are identified in the GP surgeries are called Community Referrers. One, Tom Visconti, said: “Going Local is a great project, putting people in the driving seat of their wellbeing – it’s prioritising ‘what matters to them’, not ‘what is the matter’. On national Social Prescribing day it’s a great opportunity to celebrate a prescription of a different kind.”
Official evaluation of the project shows that the project has not only helped people improve their wellbeing, but it has freed up more time for doctors to concentrate on patients with purely medical issues. Appointments are also less likely to run overtime and a reduction in missed appointments.
The project is hosted by Adur and Worthing Councils in partnership with West Sussex County Council and Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group. It also receives funding from Lancing and Sompting Parish Councils, Sompting Big Local and the GP practices through the Transformation Fund.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called for dramatic expansion of social prescribing nationally and, to celebrate the growing work around the world on social prescribing, today (Thursday March 14, 2019) is Social Prescribing Day. (#SocialPrescribingDay)
Case study: How Phil turned a negative into a positive with a bit of help from the bowls club
Phil was referred to Going Local by his GP. With Community Referrer, James Hardy, he was able to get to the nub of his problem: His wife had been ill and was also severely disabled with limited mobility, so he didn’t get out much and was feeling isolated.
With James, he discussed how he could best find a way forward.
“He was at a point in his life where he needed some help, and through a referral to Going Local, he was able to get help that wasn’t just in the form of a pill from the doctor. It was about approaching the social side of Phil’s needs,” says James.
In their first sessions, James and Phil met up and discussed what is was that Phil wanted to change and how he wanted to do it.
“It was very clear in Phil’s case that he didn’t want to run before he could walk, so we tried to find the most low level easy thing for him to engage with. He independently, whilst he was here, found out about the bowls club and got involved under his own steam. That was a good sign that he was getting back on track.”
For Phil the first difficult step was to talk about his problem, and he encourages others to take that difficult step: “What you’ve got to do is open up, and even if it hurts, you have to tell them because, without you being open and honest, they are not going to be able to help you as much as they possibly can. What the experience has done has put me nearly back to where I used to be.”
He adds: “Going local provided me with an opportunity to review things. It pointed out that what I thought were insignificant things were actually quite important markers of progress, and it helped me plot where I was going.
“It’s positive, that’s all this service is, and people who are using this service are probably in a more negative place, but this is a positive influence on your life.”
Dr Rani Dhillon works at Lime Tree Surgery in Worthing and is one of the GPs referring patients to Going Local.
She said: “For the patients it’s having someone in their lives who is tailoring the whole service for them. The beauty of the service is that the Community Referrers are regularly checking in with them and not trying to close their cases down really quickly, but instead saying ‘if that doesn’t work, maybe we can try it this way’.”
Dr Dhillon added: “When I make a referral, there is a real sense of relief that I’m able to offer something to my patients I’ve not been able to offer before. I trust the service, which is really important I’ve seen some amazing cases and even where they have still come back to me , they are using the appointments a lot more appropriately.”