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Social prescribing in Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network – exciting times!

“Having a team of proactive Social Prescribing Link Workers enables us to better support the health and wellbeing of our patients and make a tangible difference to peoples’ lives,” says Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network’s Clinical Director Dr Kate Jennings.

“Thousands of wellbeing calls during the pandemic has provided emotional and practical support to our patients – from helping those struggling with isolation or needing access to shopping/foodbanks, to others needing housing and financial help.

“And prior to the re-opening of community groups, the team has helped patients connect with online music and exercise classes, activities and hobbies.”

Dr Jennings added: “Support from the Social Prescribers is vital: people are struggling from the mental and physical impact of the pandemic and with the unprecedented demand on Primary Care, plus our Network of five GP practices continuing to deliver the Covid vaccination to patients, our Social Prescribing team’s holistic approach is making a real difference.”

The team of Julie Traverse and Sarah Warman has this week been joined by a third Social Prescriber, Tracey Johnstone. Since the start of the pandemic AHA PCN’s social prescribers have been involved in

  • Thousands of wellbeing calls supporting patients
  • Linking patients to shopping, foodbanks, prescriptions and helping those struggling with isolation
  • Supporting those with fuel poverty issues, housing and homelessness
  • Signposting people for exercise programmes including Walking for Health, ‘walking buddies’, online exercise classes
  • Grant applications – Gardening for the Disabled Trust helped a disabled patient with funding for raised beds
  • Signposting for debt advice (Christians against Poverty, Trafford Welfare Rights )
  • Supporting those with mental health issues, those with safeguarding concerns and those requiring job advice
  • Connecting people (including supporting those needing digital access) to groups and information regarding their hobbies and interests
  • Helping those with sleep issues and weight management concerns
  • Supporting carers

In addition the team is involved in longer-term projects, including:

Pantastic!

Supporting older men to cook healthy meals. Identifying those with conditions such as diabetes/heart disease who can access expert-led cookery workshops – initially via online videos (due to Covid-19 regulations) and then face-to-face. Benefits of the programme include improved healthy eating, health education, reducing loneliness/isolation and fun! The programme also has long-term aims of establishing lunch clubs to maintain social interaction and continue to promote healthy eating plus support mental and physical health.

Pantastic

Dementia Therapy Pet Pilot

The PCN is supporting a six-month pilot scheme using ‘breathing’ dementia therapy soft toys in a local care home to benefit dementia patients. The feedback is already positive with residents demonstrating increased calmness and reduced anxiety, improved wellbeing and social interaction and happiness. According to Dementia UK, the use of life-like pets/soft toys can support those with dementia by

  • Easing anxiety – stroking the pet toy or holding it can relieve stress and improve wellbeing through calmness
  • Promoting happiness – it may remind them of a time when they had a pet themselves or create feelings of affection
  • Creating renewed purpose – having something to touch/care for can connect them with the outside world and increase involvement/activity levels
  • Increasing communication – enabling improved sociability, having something to talk about with others/family, stimulating communication

Green Social Prescribing

Sarah Warman, Social Prescriber (right)
  • Partnership working with an allotment project in the community to benefit patients to support
    • a positive impact on those with mental health issues
    • increased wellbeing through outside teamwork, exercise, purpose and focus on delivering an enjoyable/sustainable project
    • those who have been isolated or lonely through involvement with a welcoming small group
    • self-belief/pride/confidence through developing the allotment and growing produce
    • health/nutrition understanding through increased exercise/movement involved in the gardening, plus enjoying home-grown vegetables
  • The PCN has also supported the expansion of the allotment area including providing equipment to support the project.
  • The Social Prescribing team is also supporting partners in Trafford applying for The Green Recovery bid, providing Eco Therapy through referring patients to outdoor projects and linking into wider Greater Manchester and nationwide green prescribing initiatives.

In addition the AHA PCN team is working in partnership with Trafford Council and the Citizens Advice Bureau to pilot a service supporting those struggling with debt.