Social Prescribing – ‘Spotlight On…’ Staffordshire
Staffordshire – Social Prescribing During Covid-19
Top tip: “Network network network – we are stronger together!”
Margaret Hurley (Link Worker Champion for Staffordshire), is a PCN link worker for North Newcastle PCN. Here she tells us about her own experiences as a social prescribing link worker, and gives some advice to those who are new in role…
Link Worker Champion (Staffordshire)
What is the biggest challenge you are facing at the moment?
This has got to be the ever changing environment we are all working in at present. We had the initial lockdown which was very unsettling in terms of being able to support PCN patients and also supporting the PCN staff with information on what was available for patients with socio/economic needs. Then we had the fabulous emergence of the mutual aid groups who responded with lots of enthusiasm and energy. Now we have those groups disbanding as volunteer members’ furlough periods end. The need for some sure-footed, flexible thinking is definitely very high – along with bucket loads of resilience!
What are you most proud of in your career as a Link Worker?
My social prescribing career started in 2015 with a newly commissioned pilot to develop and deliver social prescribing across North Staffs (this started from a standing position with just myself). I think my previous experience of running services in the voluntary sector stood me in good stead to know how to form the network of contacts I needed – from within the VCSE, but also with statutory services. The links I formed in the initial stages really helped me to develop a trusted model. The 6 month pilot lasted for over 4 years – ending with a team of 10 link workers and 1 admin support. It was hugely rewarding to be in the position of developing the first ‘commissioned’ service in the area.
What would your ‘top tip’ to a new colleague be?
To reach out to your fellow link worker colleagues in your area. Have regular contact with them and share information and resources where possible! In other words network network network – we are stronger together!
How is your scheme making a difference to your local health and care system?
Apart from building referrals from the 5 GP practices that I work with so that social prescribing is recognised as a valuable addition to support patients, I have had some great opportunities to develop some interesting ‘add-ons’. I have been able to participate in two pilots – one providing a free Alexa Echo Show to patients I’ve identified who would benefit from it – to improve their health and wellbeing and also to help their social connections. Another is providing the care homes we are responsible for with Facebook Portals – for residents to use to connect with their families as many are still in lock down, and also to enable better clinical discussions between the care home and the GP practice. These also come with digital stethoscopes which both care home staff and GPs can use to digitally send readings.
We are also one of 2 PCNs in this area chosen to develop a funded Integrated Volunteering model (temporarily on hold), so that we can build a network of volunteers to support our patients.
Do you have an example from a service user of how social prescribing is making a difference to people’s lives?
Quote received from a patient: “I have struggled with my mental health for a long time and I am going through a particularly bad patch at the moment. I have been to see the GP who referred me to Margaret the social prescriber. I would say Margaret has helped me a lot, it was so helpful having someone to talk to who listened and understood me, she’s wonderful! Margaret helped me find services I didn’t know about and whilst there is a waiting list for those services I feel I am on the right track. Would definitely recommend others try seeing a social prescriber if they are suffering and don’t know where to turn.”