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​East Merton’s pilot social prescribing programme improves patient wellbeing by 77%

  • Pilot to be expanded to 13 Practices across Merton
  • Patients needed 33% fewer GP appointments as a result of the scheme
  • Programme cut hospital visits by 50% in the first year

A pilot prescribing programme in Merton is to be expanded to 13 local GP surgeries (9 practices in East Merton, and 4 Practices in West Merton) after it dramatically improved patient's health and wellbeing.

The social prescribing pilot which signposts patients to non-medical treatments, for example walking groups where they can meet new friends, has been running for the last year in two surgeries. A social prescribing co-ordinator guides each patient to the best support for them in the community.

Dr Mohan Sekeram, NHS Merton Clinical Commissioning Group's GP Lead for Social Prescribing and GP at Wide Way Medical Centre which was one of the two practices that piloted the programme, said:

"We are delighted the social prescribing programme has been such a success. Above all our patients have told us it has improved their wellbeing, bringing them back to recovery and linking them to help on their doorsteps that they did not know about. GPs also welcomed the additional support for patients with wider health and wellbeing needs from within the practice. In addition our colleagues from the voluntary and community sector services have found the programme beneficial in providing holistic support for patients."

Mitcham resident Ronald Raynor was struggling to get out and about and live independently in his own home when he was first referred to the social prescribing service.

RAF veteran Ronald who has just celebrated his 85th birthday said his life has now been helped tremendously:

"I did not realise how much help was available in your own home. I was finding it difficult to get in and out of the house."

Ronald who is also visually impaired met Merton's Social Prescribing Navigator Ray Hautot and a Fire Safe and Well visit from London Fire Brigade was arranged.

"When the Brigade's Community Safety Advisors came to my home they talked through what help was available and recommended I see a physiotherapist and referred me to the Merton Falls Prevention service. The physio gave me expert advice on what aids would make it easier for me to cook and prepare meals at home and exercises I could do to improve my mobility."

Ray also referred Ronald onto the Step Forward project at the New Horizons Centre at Pollards Hill who helped him apply for Attendance Allowance. This extra income has enabled Ronald to pay for help with cleaning and gardening. They helped register Ronald for transport services including Dial a Ride and a Taxicard so he can get out more to visit his family.

 Ronald added:

"In just two weeks after just one meeting a big difference has been made to my daily life. Everyone has been so good and I feel more positive about living independently."

Merton CCG and Merton Council set out to test a model of social prescribing that would connect medical care with local voluntary and community resources. Its aims were to improve patient health and wellbeing and reduce pressures on local GP and A&E services.

The Social Prescribing Coordinator (SPC) employed by Merton Voluntary Service Council delivered the pilot through two GP Practices, Wide Way Medical Centre and Tamworth House Medical Centre. This has now been expanded to 13 practices with two additional social prescribing co-ordinators and we hope to roll it out to all Merton surgeries in the future.

National research shows that one in five GP visits are due to social rather than medical problems.

The full evaluation report can be found here