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Spotlight On: Social Prescribing During Covid-19 in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale

Our team: Mehek, Zahida, Sue, Graeme, Kathryn, Samina (pictured)

Social Prescribing Scheme:

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Primary Care Network / Rochdale Health Alliance

What is the biggest challenge you are facing at the moment?

Making contact with patients by phone means we are missing out on the valuable face to face aspect of our role. It is also much more immediate and easier to consult with Practice staff and keep up with new developments when we’re there in person.

What is next on your ‘to do’ list?

We are still contacting all the patients on the shielding list, but at the same time planning reintegration into the Practice, becoming familiar with PPE usage and other COVID rules. We are also planning how we can help the patients who are apprehensive about a return to normal activities.

What are you most proud of in your career as a Link Worker to date?

We are making a difference to people’s lives. Calling shielding patients gives them the opportunity to talk about themselves and their lives, their hopes and their potential plans for when the new normal arrives. We are proud to work for the NHS and feel we have made a difference to vulnerable adults and have prevented abuse and self-neglect.

“I have recently worked with a young man who tried to kill himself.  I started seeing the gentleman daily and looked at the issues he was facing. He had fallen behind with his rent and not responded to any letters, eviction notice had been served and he was overwhelmed with debt issues.  I spoke to the housing officer and explained that my client had severe emotional issues and had been unable to respond to any correspondence. The housing officer arranged to meet client and she put support in place to look at his debt. My client said that he felt that he could breathe because somebody was going to be supporting him to face his fears and deal with his financial issues.”

“We supported a person with anxiety issues to set short-term goals in order to help her feel confident to return to work. We also provided her with some basic strategies to stop her from thinking negatively, introduced mindfulness such as simple breathing exercises and meditation apps to use when the anxiety triggers off. The lady was very grateful for the support and guidance and as a result was able to take that first step to return to work within a week.”

“I have never told anyone that before in my life”. A quote from one of our clients who appreciated the time to talk, our non-judgemental listening and being treated as expert on their own life and health.

What would your ‘top tip’ to a new colleague be?

Initially do not worry about the number of referrals you receive, just concentrate on giving a high quality service to patients.  Also, use your Social Prescribing Link Worker colleagues, your managers and your Practice team to share any concerns and knowledge and gain advice.  Ensure you understand Safeguarding policies and procedures

How is your scheme making a difference to your local health and care system?

Through our positive work we have been able to redirect the number of patients frequently bringing worrying non-clinical issues to their GP; thus reducing the pressures GPs face daily.

We are finding that social prescribing can be a preventative factor as well as a healing and recovery aid to patients. Our role has also enabled us to emphasise the importance and relevance of expert services in the voluntary, statuary and faith sector in the journey to better health and wellbeing.


Dr Salman Shahid, Clinical Director, Middleton Primary Care Network, said:

“Social Prescribing Link Workers are a key asset to the Primary Care Networks but many GPs are still learning how much Link Workers offer – to patients, the practice and the wider community. The Middleton Primary Care Network really values our Link Workers and their role is well recognised.

A sharp rise in people coming to General Practice for non medical reasons, combined with an increase in social issues leading to depression and anxiety means the extra capacity and support from Link Workers is a breath of fresh air. They conn

ect the traditionally medical system with our communities and respond to the local needs, so they really are an invaluable source of advice and support for their colleagues and our patients. We are all seeing the positive impact they have on the health and happiness of our practice population.”