Social Prescribing Spotlight On: Birmingham & Solihull
Birmingham & Solihull – Social Prescribing During Covid-19
Mahrukh Hussain (Link Worker Champion for Birmingham & Solihull), Rebecca Cuthbert (Link Worker at Gateway Family Services) and Emil Prysak (Lead for Neighbourhood Network Schemes in Birmingham) give us a snapshot of Social Prescribing in Birmingham & Solihull during the Covid-19 pandemic…
Link Worker Champion (Birmingham & Solihull)
Mahrukh is a link worker in Birmingham & Solihull, for Birmingham Smartcare Central PCN. Here she talks about the biggest challenges she has been facing as a link worker during the current pandemic, how her scheme has responded to Covid-19, and some advice to those who are new in role…
What is the biggest challenge you are facing at the moment?
The biggest challenge at the present moment for me is lack of human interactions with colleagues on a daily basis, which we have previously taken for granted – you don’t realise how efficient and important those interactions can be until you’re trying to manage them remotely.
Building rapport over the phone with patients is another challenge…
What are you most proud of in your career as a Link Worker?
I am proud of motivating and empowering individuals to take control of their current challenges – it is really rewarding to support them in their journey of being a willing participant in their own health, recognising non-clinical issues (such as social or economic factors) which perpetuates illness and decreases their quality of life.
What would your ‘top tip’ to a new colleague be?
You are more than enough. You have the power within you to support your clients. The hardest part is to believe in this power – do not just “GO” through the challenges you face at work, in fact, “GROW” through them.
How is your scheme making a difference to your local health and care system?
Our social prescribing scheme is making our patients feel supported, valued, and listened to – especially during this pandemic. We have had lots of positive feedback from our service users and stakeholders (GP practices and community groups).
Link Worker (Birmingham & Solihull – Gateway Family Services)
Rebecca Cuthbert is a Link Worker at Gateway Family Services in Birmingham. Here, she tells us about one of her patients, Brian (not their real name) – she highlights the importance of a joined up approach between services, creating ‘a community of care’, and how Social Prescribing is ‘about doing small things, but doing them well’.
“More than six weeks into lockdown, and it’s starting to take its toll. We are all feeling it and so are the patients I’ve been supporting.
I had been phoning one patient, Brian (not their real name), every other day, but one day I just couldn’t get him to answer. This was a cause for concern, because during previous conversations Brian had gone into a lot of detail, sharing his mental health struggles over the years, previous suicidal thoughts, chronic anxiety, drug use, insomnia and what he described as his ‘mental breakdowns’. Why wasn’t he picking up, or messaging me? What if he was relapsing?
I phoned the contact from the local art-based social prescribing group, who had referred Brian to Gateway’s Social Prescribing service. She had not been able to get hold of him either and had similar concerns. This confirmed that it was time to get in touch with his GP and ask them to do some follow up.
I’m grateful that Brian belongs to a surgery where the Practice Manager and GPs understand my role and value Social Prescribing’s contribution to holistic care. I emailed the Practice Manager and the Clinical Lead about the safeguarding concerns I had. The next day I received a reply letting me know that they’d been able to contact Brian. He apologised for the lack of contact and shared that he had been retreating into himself more and more – he told the GP that my colleague (from the art project) and I have been ‘lifelines’ for him recently. Brian has decided that he needs more support for his mental health and the GP is now working that through with him.
This shows our system working and joining up to provide a safety net. Most importantly, Brian knows he is cared for and that he hasn’t been forgotten – and that means a lot for his mental health. Since then, Brian has texted and had a long call with me. He says, ‘you don’t know what it means that you care and that you notice’.
It is wonderful to contribute to a very caring, human network of care. Brian can see that I work closely with other partners and with his GP, and that we have a high level of trust and a shared vision between us: a ‘community of care’. I believe that our patients can perceive this and it all helps convey the important message, ‘you matter’. We are not claiming that a few phone calls are enough to bring full health and wholeness to Brian’s complex mental health issues, but they could have been enough to prevent deterioration, and been the start of him getting more help. Like he said, it’s a ‘lifeline’.
I often say to people that Social Prescribing is simple really, there’s nothing very big or clever about it. It’s about doing small things, but doing them well. It’s a challenge when working from home, but going forward I know I need to continue to invest in my relationships with all the Practices I work with and to spread the vision of the big impact that Social Prescribing can have.”
Lead for Neighbourhood Network Schemes (NNS)
Emil is Lead for the Neighbourhood Network Schemes (NNS) in Birmingham & Solihull. The purpose of the NNS is to enable engagement with and investment in community assets. Here, Emil tells us about how the NNS is supporting the community response to Covid-19 in Birmingham.
NNS Response to Covid-19
“Since the start of the pandemic, several Neighbourhood Network Scheme Lead Facilitators have been in touch with their link workers – Sutton NNS went one step further, and organised regular catch up meetings between the NNS, link workers and social workers.
In terms of the more generic approach to the coordination of response from the VCSE sector, we commissioned BVSC (Birmingham’s voluntary services council) to coordinate the response on a city wide level, with NNS as local coordinators to connect and enable easy access to pathways.
Pathways to local support are available are here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/50233/support_for_residents_during_the_coronavirus_covid-19/2130/coronavirus_-_accessing_support/3
A list of services continuing to offer support and new ones being granted to respond to Covid-19 (over 400 listed already) available here: https://r2wbirmingham.info/browse.html?category=28&phrase=&distance=&gender=ðnicity=
As a city, we made available new grant schemes to support vulnerable adults and families with children, a hardship fund, and NNS funding was amended to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This, together with other funders such as Heart of England Foundation has made a big difference to our communities.
You can read more in the links above about our mutual aid groups who have responded brilliantly, the food parcel provision Birmingham City Council established in the city (via The Active Wellbeing Society – TAWS), and many more great examples of responding to the need.”