Reflection feedback from National Association of Link Workers North East Social Prescribing Link Worker Conference 15th October 2019 by a Social Prescribing Link Worker
On reflection after attending this conference I would like to give my opinion of what I found helpful and what positives and negatives I brought away with me.
The conference was a good sized group for me to feel confident enough to bring my own ideas and experiences forward. Not too overwhelming and a positive environment where you could discuss achievements, goals and worries around the new Roles.
I was excited about some projects that other Well -being facilitators in Durham had done and this has given me inspiration to try to get something similar set up in Hartlepool.
The group in question was a men’s group around losing weight, making friends and getting active. It had been a twelve week project, where nutrition and football had been combined to achieve weight loss goal at the end of it and some continued friendships. This had led to some of the gents, doing couch to 5k together independently after the project had finished and continue to meet up.
The only negative from that was that they had very good funding/ grants and we currently have no personal health budgets or extra spending to facilitate such a group. I am however in further conversations with my clinical lead and PCN to see if we can group together to fund something similar.
I also thought that it was great within this large team of Well -Being facilitators they had different levels of experience and worked together and in small groups to get things set up and achieved. Good support network.
It was brought to our attention that Roles were paid differently in different locations but we were all in fact doing much the same Role. Funding was also an issue in other areas.
Areas where link workers/Social prescribers were spread thinly didn’t always work best for the patient. This was due to the PCN’s still wanting more time of the Social prescribing link worker per size of practice, as opposed how many patients you would see per PCN.
I took from this that hopefully as the PCN’s work together, they will start to understand this expectation to split hours does not put the patient first. I also thought where other Social prescribing link workers at the conference, had a specific cohort of patients they seemed to have a clearer goal and better outcomes.
I thought that doing the activities together got everyone talking about different perspectives and ideas and how you could build your support network.
Projects that had ran from one hub or centre point for patients within a PCN, seemed to work well. Also having the flexibility around home visits and clinics, so as not to exclude certain patients who were in fact wanting to make changes around their health and wellbeing but unable to get to clinics.
The day gave me a feeling that we were on the right track in the way we are helping the patients but that there is a long way to go in making sure that PCN’s understand our new roles. Previously with Care coordinators they had a strict guideline of Cohort patients and it will be a challenge to get the correct referrals coming through. For example rather than the patient being at crisis point at the time of referral, to get them to see the social prescribing link workers early on in diagnosis or treatments. Then prevention steps can be taken to help the patient have control over their Health and Wellbeing and get valuable support before medications are their only option.Discussions were had around not racing to fix people. Being gradual with approach to get the best outcomes and not pressure people into making quick (non -sustainable changes) came out from the day. Looking at how we can enable the patient more to gain in confidence, to enable them to take control of their health going forward (long after our interventions).
The NHS England guide of 250 patients per full time Social prescriber seemed varied. Those that were able to take on large groups may be seeing more and those that worked Part time and lone working were seeing less.
Explaining this to PCN’s is quite difficult over a few surgeries.
Five surgeries over one PCN and a four day 30 hour week
Seeing Five patients a week (possibly one per surgery) sounds silly to the surgeries but is actually one more than expectations to get best outcomes and be able to review and spend time with these patients. Being able to accompany patient’s places and support them in their choices is part of the role but not achievable if you are assigned to half a day in each practice. Flexibility is a must to get the Best from the role and outcomes for the patient.
You may see more if they are all navigation patients and less if more complex cases.
It would seem that large teams have this distributed out to relevant staff. Those lone works and small teams covering multiple surgeries will possibly just end up fire fighting and not using the role in the correct and most useful way if PCN’s do not see its 250 per PCN and not split equally over surgeries.
This is something to keep in mind and hopefully to keep putting the point across, that it is patient numbers per PCN and not how many per surgery.
I hope that there will be some other conferences that I can attend in the future. The more Knowledge and support you have within Social Prescribing can only be a positive.
I would definitely recommend this to my other colleagues. I found it helpful, insightful and enjoyed the experience of meeting other Social prescribing link workers to share best practice.
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National Association of Link Workers is the only UK professional network for Social Prescribing Link Workers increasing professionalism and reducing isolation. A UK community of practice for all Social Prescribing Link Workers to share learning, build resilience, develop, network and support each other in order to achieve improved quality of life for themselves, their clients/patients and communities. Contact us to get access to our exclusive 9 regional/national community of practice 2019 reports or Join here if you employ Social Prescribing Link Workers or a Link Worker.
2nd UK Annual Link Worker Day and Conference is 20th April 2020