New “life-changing” advice service expands across Merton and Wandsworth
- Social prescribing pilot to be expanded to 38 GP practices across Merton and Wandsworth
- 77 per cent of patients said their wellbeing improved as a result of speaking to a social prescribing coordinator
- Patients needed 33 per cent fewer GP appointments as a result of the scheme
A pilot social prescribing programme is to be expanded to 38 GP practices in Merton and Wandsworth from April 2019 after it dramatically improved patient's health and wellbeing.
NHS Merton and NHS Wandsworth's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are making the announcement today, Thursday 14 March, to mark National Social Prescribing Day at a special event with patients and doctors.
Social prescribing is about GP practices signposting patients to non-medical services in the community - from walking or community groups where they can meet new friends to employment, benefits or housing advice.
Speaking about the service Merton resident Kelly Frost, a working Mum and carer for her Grandmother who lives with dementia, said it was "life-changing".
As a result of speaking to a social prescribing coordinator at her GP surgery, Kelly received online therapy she could do in her own home. The number of care visits for her Grandmother also increased and she was connected to groups where she can socialise with other carers.
Kelly said: "I wasn't in a good place before social prescribing, I couldn't cope but I knew I didn't want to take medication. Talking to a professional was a huge weight off my shoulders and a life-changing experience.
She added: "It's someone on your side who can help provide information when you're overloaded with things and don't know how to deal with them."
The pilot ran for a year in Wide Way Medical Centre and Tamworth Medical Centre in East Merton and supported people with anxiety and stress, and those experiencing social isolation and loneliness. A social prescribing co-ordinator based in the practices guides each patient to the best support for them in the community.
Dr Mohan Sekeram, Merton CCG lead for social prescribing and GP at Wide Way Medical Centre said: "National research shows that one in five GP visits are due to social rather than medical problems. We are delighted we can now offer thousands more patients this new service which can help with all their needs.
He added: "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."
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, working with the Merton Voluntary Service Council. The pilot's aims were to improve patient health and wellbeing and reduce pressures on local GP and A&E services.
The independent evaluation of the pilot found in the first year 77 per cent of patients said it had improved their wellbeing; 33 per cent fewer GP appointments were needed as a result of the scheme; and hospital visits were reduced by 50 per cent.