National Association of Link Workers response to the government’s loneliness strategy

We welcome the publication of the loneliness strategy and the prime minister’s unwavering support for social prescribing; ‘GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023’. We know only 20% of our health is accountable to healthcare and social prescribing is the appropriate resource for the 80% that are largely non-medical.

 

Non-clinical link workers are hugely crucial to the success of social prescribing. Clients/patients often see them as role models, therefore it is important that they are adequately supported and do not feel professionally isolated themselves .

The key to successful social prescribing is link worker:

  • – empowerment
  • – development
  • – support

 

 

7 actions that needs to be taken:

  1. Recognise that there are non-clinical and clinical link workers and therefore provide role clarity and guidance
  2. Provide a cross cutting national standardised curriculum for non-clinical link worker education/training
  3. Provide career progression routes for non-clinical link workers
  4. Decent pay for non-clinical link workers, up to a minimum of NHS band 5
  5. Recognise the role of volunteers and patient participation groups in social prescribing and therefore provide support and guidance
  6. Support link workers to role model social prescribing
  7. Provide an upto date national open access directory of services, community activities and community groups

 

Get intouch with us to chat about collaborating on these 7 areas or to learn more info@connectlink.org

Why the volunteer social prescribing workforce matters and should be supported: view from a volunteer link worker

How it started:
Our Social Prescribing and Wellbeing Project was set up at the GP surgery as a pilot project, about 18months ago, in response to an identified need. This need came about because a relatively new service, at the time, provided by a Community Navigator was becoming inundated and overloaded with requests from GPs across the city to signpost patients, who presented with non-medical issues, to services for support with a range of social or emotional (i.e. non-medical) needs.
The presentation to the Patient Participation Group (PPG) resulted in an interested group of volunteers being trained by the local CVS/Community Navigator team and then some of those volunteers taking the project forward with the surgery’s support.

Our impact:
• As volunteer link workers, we support the (18000 +patients) surgery by spending more time with patients who have non-medical issues but don’t know where else to go. Patients appreciate the time we give them
• For complex cases we can escalate to the Community Navigator
Support we received
• We received initial training which focused more on active listening and protective behaviours a couple of us spent time at the local CAB.
• The surgery is very appreciative of what we are trying to do and we have a proactive GP and Practice Manager who are keen that we should succeed.
• We have been invited to surgery meetings to give feedback and they would like us to have our photos on the board alongside other staff members to show the patients who we are.

How we work:
• Clinics are held on 2 half days per week so that a consulting room is always available
• We have devised a closed group scheduling system on Yammer
• We have produced a small referral pad which each of the GPs, Nurses and Receptionists can use to give to a patient to take to reception to book an appointment. This also acts as a reminder to the GPs of the service available by the volunteers.
• By developing strong links with the surgery, we have a secure email account that allows us to share referral forms back to the surgery to update patients records
• We have refined our IT trails so that we have as much face to face time with the patient as possible
• We are proactive in gathering leaflets, learning on the hoof, drawing on our backgrounds and general knowledge.

The issues have been:
Recruiting and keeping volunteers
• Finding a system for scheduling the rota
• Designing a system/paper & electronic trail that works for all parties
• Having a manageable IT system for recording actions and follow ups
• Having a dedicated space within the surgery to see patients
• Getting sufficient referrals from the GPs
• Lack of funding
Training for volunteers/ new recruits
• Knowing what 3rd party services are currently available
• Getting volunteers’ faces known around the surgery

Written by our member Angela Bettridge (volunteer link worker) The Maltings Surgery, St Albans in Hertfordshire.

Join us if you are interested in ending link worker professional isolation and would like a single point of access for empowering and supporting the social prescribing workforce inorder to help increase positive wellbeing outcomes for themselves, individuals and communities.

Why social prescribing is global

Some background information as to why social prescribing is global.

The United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was adopted in September 2015 by the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, target by 2030

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2. End hunger achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

World social prescribing

As a result, organisations and governments globally are increasingly putting the SDGs at the heart of their impact framework and approaches.

Social prescribing impacts upon all 17 goals . As such, governments and organisations that are not yet aware of the benefits of social prescribing should be made aware and be supported to include social prescribing as part of their SDG implementation strategy. What are your thoughts?

If YOU are an individual or organisation who is interested or involved in social prescribing and would like to improve positive wellbeing outcomes JOIN US

We welcome local, national and international collaboration. Get intouch admin@connectlink.org

7 key social prescribing highlights from The PHE annual conference 2018

The conference this year had 3 themes:

  1. Reducing inequalities
  2. Making the economic case for prevention
  3. Using world leading science and innovation to protect and improve the health and wellbeing

7 key social prescribing highlights from the event:

  1. People are living longer but in poorer health
  2. The gap between the affluent and the poor is on the increase; there is no good health without income.
  3. We will not close this gap if we always did what we have always done
  4. We need to help people make healthier choices to live longer in good health
  5. Healthcare is only accountable to about 20% of our health; the rest is down to choices such as (Smoking, Diet, Exercise, Alcohol)
  6. For the reason above, we need to address the 80% so that people use healthcare appropriately
  7. Government, commissioners and organisations should ensure their policies do not indirectly increase inequality E.g where services do not actually reach those most in need of it or benefits only a few.

Social prescribing aims to help reduce inequalities, prevent ill-health, promote health equity and human rights. This is the reason we think EVERYONE not SOME should have access to a well-resourced social prescribing service to deliver positive population wellbeing outcomes. To increase positive wellbeing outcomes for an individual we need a thriving social prescribing workforce.

Since 20% of our health is accountable to healthcare; we need to provide social prescribing as the solution to the 80% that are largely non-medical. This is basically a no brainer, isn’t it! We need to stop over medicating people unnecessarily but rather support them live longer in good health by addressing the non-medical wellbeing issues affecting their health. What do you think!

The launch of the health profile for England 2018

The health profile for England 2018 was launched at the event. It is hoped that the easy to understand health profile data will help break down barriers to collaboration in finding solutions to improve people’s health and to help inform the long-term plan for the NHS.

If YOU are an individual or organisation who is involved in social prescribing and would like to improve positive wellbeing outcomes become a member of the National Association of Link Workers

Useful links

Public Health England 
The National Association of Link Workers
NHS long term plan consultation 
Health profile for England 

Do you have a social prescribing job/volunteer opportunity? We can list your opportunity for free on our website and other channels. Get intouch team@connectlink.org

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram @ConnectLinkOrg

4 social prescribing priorities revealed at NHS Expo 18

The NHS Health and Innovation Expo 2018 was held in Manchester on 5th and 6th September.

We were excited that this year’s Expo had a focus on prevention and social prescribing because we know that our health and care needs today are different from those the NHS was designed 70years ago.

As a result, adapting to patients needs means focusing on a personalised care approach and preventing the root causes of ill-health rather than waiting to treat it’s consequences. The good news is that social prescribing is one of the major responses to this.

We look forward to social prescribing and prevention featuring in the long term plan for the NHS. Help develop the plan 

These 4 NHS England Social Prescribing (SP) priorities were revealed at the event

  1. Support the commissioning of local SP community connector schemes as part of a personalised care approach
  2. Support mental health trusts to connect people to community groups
  3. This depends on partnership working, sustainable local voluntary organisations and community groups
  4. Support offer includes regional SP networks, online collaboration, Common Outcomes Framework, mapping existing schemes

What next?

We need a thriving social prescribing workforce to help increase positive wellbeing outcomes for themselves, individuals and communities.

Firstly, the social prescribing workforce should have access to this opportunity

Useful links

Do you have a social prescribing job/volunteer opportunity? We can list your opportunity for free on our website and other channels. Get intouch, team@connectlink.org

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram @ConnectLinkOrg

How to set the social prescribing workforce up for success

We know that our health is affected by other ‘factors’ outside of healthcare, hence the need for social prescribing; to help tackle the ‘factors’ in order to improve a person’s overall wellbeing.

How to set the social prescribing workforce up for success:

I am very grateful I sign up, a well-constructed course for the target audience of GP Practice and voluntary and charitable staff involved with social prescribing or community navigation to develop new knowledge and skills to improve wellbeing- Link worker

Our FREE online course helps to:

  • Increase confidence and knowledge: understand link working
  • Be empowered: reduce risk and increase success in link working; role guidance
  • Understand opportunities: whole picture view. Link working career path

We will be digging deeper into this topic in another post, so stay tuned! In the meantime Get FREE members of The National Association of Link Workers

For further information, email info@connectlink.org

What you probably haven’t considered for social prescribing

The relevance and power of being connected

Social prescribing has a role to play in helping to inform and facilitate peer to peer support not only for those who are feeling isolated or lonely but for everyone who would benefit.

There are many things that people are able to handle as a community. We all want to feel supported. There is absolutely nothing in this world that comes close to the value of being connected to others who share similar interests, problems, issues & concerns. It is for this same reason that we are a membership organisation for link workers

Being alienated from your social group is something that happens very often when you are suffering from any kind of debilitating disease. This is something that can make people feel extremely depressed and unhappy. They feel like there is no one out there who can relate, and they even feel uncomfortable and angry when they see everyone else in their lives enjoying their health. These feelings can’t be helped, and they unfortunately create large gaps between people.

The good news is that social connectivity via online and offline has come to change that forever. Now people can find others who are suffering from their same problem or share similar interests. Forums, self help groups are extremely popular outside of social media networks and there are also pages and groups that are dedicated to all kinds of health issues. The point is that people can easily find a place where they can feel accepted and supported.

Having a community that you can see as the place to feel welcome and supported is extremely powerful. Online communities have become a huge part of this process with many groups that are dedicated to support for people who suffer from all kinds of physical and mental health issues.

Social prescribing can help encourage people to start making significant changes in their lives by facilitating social connections and signposting to appropriate support groups. These groups have given a large number of people the chance to find support and to stay motivated as they are dealing with their condition or issues.

Furthermore, it is also important that social prescribing workers are empowered and supported to not only survive but to thrive in the role. Become a member of the National Association of Link Workers

For further information on social prescriber and link worker development, empowerment and support, email info@connectlink.org

Useful links

https://www.selfhelp.org.uk/

https://healthunlocked.com/

https://membership.connectlink.org

GP receptionist vs GP receptionist care navigator

A missed opportunity example.

Key difference between a GP receptionist vs GP receptionist care navigator

  • gp receptionist care navigator example
  • gp receptionist care navigator example part 2

How to attract and retain volunteer link workers

People volunteer for various reasons, therefore to attract and retain volunteer link workers, attention must be given to their reasons for volunteering.

Two broad categories of volunteer link workers.

1. Those of state pension age

2. Those NOT of state pension age

The needs of volunteers in the 2 categories may not be the same. For instance, category 2 volunteer link workers may not have a FREE freedom bus pass for travelling and may require travel subsistence.

To attract and retain volunteer link workers consider these 11 questions.

1. What mix of volunteers are you attracting and is the mix representative of the population you are serving?

2. How flexible is your volunteering programme?

3. Do you know your volunteer motivations and aspirations for volunteering?

4. How do you engage with volunteers and make them feel valued?

5. Is there an opportunity to return to volunteering?

6. What provision is available for volunteer subsistence? No volunteer should be out of pocket as a result of volunteering

7. Do you have a minimum period for volunteering? E.g. 6months

8. How attractive is your volunteering programme and what do volunteers get in return for volunteering? See link worker courses

9. What development opportunities and support are available for volunteers? See link worker courses

10. Are you utilising your volunteer skills and knowledge? You can actually create different roles to account for this if there is interest

11. How do you keep volunteers informed of impact and progress?

For more information on how to attract and retain volunteer link workers email info@connectlink.org or for link worker training visit https://elearning.connectlink.org