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​Patients share benefits of Merton social prescribing pilot in new films


Patients in East Merton have been sharing their stories about how Merton CCG's pilot social prescribing scheme has helped to improve their health and wellbeing.

Social prescribing is about GP practices signposting patients to non-medical treatments in the community, for example walking or community groups where they can meet new friends.

The Merton 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 practice guides each patient to the best support for them in the community. 

The scheme has recently been expanded to 13 local GP surgeries (9 practices in East Merton, and four Practices in West Merton) after an independent evaluation in 2017/18 found it dramatically improved patient's health and wellbeing.

Healthy London Partnership has now launched a range of new short films about the Merton scheme as part of their work to share best practice in social prescribing with all London CCGs and GP practices across London.  

Watch this short three minute film which captures stories from patients in Merton about the difference social prescribing has made to their health and being: 

 

A second longer film features patients talking in more detail about how they were linked up with support and activities in their local communities by the social prescriber.

The third film provides useful advice from all the key partners involved, including the practice GPs and social prescribers, Merton CCG, public health and voluntary sector colleagues, about how to set up and deliver a social prescribing connector scheme within primary care.

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:

"The greatest influences on our health and wellbeing are things like education, employment, our lifestyle choices and whether we have good social connections or feel lonely and isolated. National research shows that one in five GP visits are due to social rather than medical problems.

"Social prescribing is about linking patients with non-medical support in the community that can help them deal with these issues.

"We are delighted Merton's 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."

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. The pilot's aims were to improve patient health and wellbeing and reduce pressures on local GP and A&E services. 

The Social Prescribing Coordinator (SPC) was employed by Merton Voluntary Service Council and delivered the pilot through Wide Way Medical Centre and Tamworth House Medical Centre. Dr Sekeram said that the collaborative working between the MVSC, Merton Council and the CCG was a key ingredient to the success of the programme.

To  support the recent expansion to the 13 practices, two additional social prescribing co-ordinators have been recruited.  The hope is that the programme will eventually be rolled out to all GP practices in Merton.

The independent evaluation into in the pilot found patients needed 33% fewer GP appointments as a result of the scheme and that the programme cut hospital visits by 50% in the first year. The full evaluation report can be found here 

As well as linking people with community groups, Merton's social prescribers can also link patients to services that can include benefit, housing or employment or bereavement support.

The thirteen practices the social prescribing scheme has been rolled out to are:

West Merton

  • Nelson Medical Practice
  • Merton Medical Practice
  • Lambton Road Surgery
  • Central Medical Centre

East Merton

  • Mitcham Medical Centre
  • Wide Way Medical Centre (pilot site)
  • Tamworth House Medical Centre (pilot site)
  • The Rowans Surgery
  • Cricket Green Medical Centre
  • Mitcham Family Practice
  • Figges Marsh Surgery
  • Ravensbury Park Medical Centre
  • Colliers Wood Surgery