Social prescribing link worker report release

Social prescribing link worker report release
14th March 2019

The National Association of Link Workers today released it’s getting to know the link worker workforce: understanding link workers knowledge, skills, experiences and support needs report

Link workers are the workforce that are critical to delivering the NHS Long Term Plan social prescribing ambitions.

Link workers enable GPs, primary care networks, mental health trusts, social and community care organisations to deliver holistic services to patients. A link worker ensures patients get help for their non-clinical holistic needs.

The role of a link worker is still relatively new and as such this is the 1st ever report to highlight the knowledge, skills, experiences and support needs of existing link workers.

As NHS England has committed to funding the recruitment and training of over 1,000 social prescribing link workers to be in place by the end of 2020/21, rising further so that by 2023/24 all staff within GP practices have access to a link worker and as there are plans to mainstream social prescribing across the UK: this presents an opportunity to be informed about setting the new recruits up for success.

“we are committed to ensuring there is equitable access to support for link workers regardless of their employer or geographical location in order to realise positive social prescribing outcomes for patients”
Christiana Melam-CEO of the National Association of Link Workers

For further information and enquiries

Join the twitter conversation using #linkworkerreport

Contact: Michelle Porthouse, michelle@connectlink.org

National Association of Link Workers

Social prescribing link worker: 3 things primary care networks should do to increase successful delivery

Social prescribing is a win win situation for primary care networks and their local population. Supported and resilient link workers are a trusted resource that can help general practice to help their patients with non-clinical needs, allowing GPs to focus on what they can do – their patients’ clinical needs. Link workers are an integral part of the primary care network team, delivering holistic service to patients and improving the health of the local population.

3 things primary care networks should do to increase successful delivery:

  1. Ensure the link worker’s role is interpreted same way not only in primary care but across the STP and nationally
  2. Ensure the link worker’s role is embedded in local workforce transformation and integrated care approaches
  3. Ensure link workers training is not disjointed but based on the link worker competency framework

 

This will ensure efficiency and consistency which will yield higher return on investment and patient experience.

The 1st ever national social prescribing link worker success conference holds on 8th July.

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Social Prescribing link worker: 5 ways to boost client attendance

If you’re working in the field of Social Prescribing and seeing clients, you may have had days or even weeks where some or many people don’t show up. One piece of research has suggested that deprivation is the biggest driver of missed GP appointments (Lancet, Dec ’17) so it makes sense that Social Prescribing clients can sometimes be difficult to engage.

Here are 5 ideas that have helped me boost client attendance so that more people can benefit from our service

1) The telephone; it’s how you use it! It’s likely your first contact with the client will be on the phone. Here are some tips that have helped me to engage with my clients successfully. Getting hold of a client: Some people don’t answer unknown numbers, so you can text ahead to introduce yourself then call shortly after, or leave a voicemail or text asking them to get back to you (texting seems to trump voicemail nowadays!). OK, maybe this sounds too obvious, but it can be a tricky business! Ask: “Do you think a face to face appointment would be useful for you?” Ask this rather than going straight ahead and booking them in for an appointment they may not really be committed to attending. Telephone signposting: If your client’s needs are clear then simply assist them over the phone with the information they need to save time for both of you. Telephone appointments: These are great if your client has certain barriers (see point 2). Timing is everything: Use the information you have about the client to judge when might be the best time to first call. Maybe they are busy because of school runs or work or they are retired or unemployed. For me, overall I find more people answer late morning!

2) Discuss your client’s barriers. Our clients can feel that lots of things are holding them back, which is partly why they are seeking support (or the GP has recommended it). These barriers may stop them at the first hurdle from even attending a social prescribing appointment. Try to find a time, place and type of appointment that best suits your client (as far as you have the resources). Are they a morning person? They can have the 9am slot! Are they afraid of busy waiting rooms? Find out the least busy time for the practice (if practice based). Do they have a school run to do? Do they work 9–5pm or nights? Are they afraid of leaving the house? Do they have a bus to catch which is better at a certain time of day? Does that cost them money? Are they a carer? All of these factors might mean that someone misses an appointment or disengages completely, so be frank and try to get a sense of these within your first appointment with your client

3) Text an appointment reminder the day before. Sounds simple and many of you probably already do this, because often people forget or haven’t written down their appointments, but I’ve found that wording the message to promote accountability can actually make a difference! For example, I used to write something like ‘Hi ……just a quick reminder of your appointment tomorrow at 2pm at …..Surgery, Best wishes, Will’ and now I write ‘Hi….appointment confirmed for tomorrow at 2pm at ….Surgery. See you tomorrow. Will’. Perhaps the first one is too casual but since using the second one, fewer clients have texted me back to say ‘Sorry I can’t make it’ and more have attended, I think because it sounds more formal. So if you’re getting lots of no shows, try playing with your wording!

4) Sense your client’s commitment. After the first appointment, I always try to ask the client two questions. “Was that helpful today?” and “Would it be useful for you to have another appointment?” Of course, I also say what I think might be useful for them but it’s a joint decision. If you sense the client is being polite or hesitant and just re-booking because they think they should, then try to be open and say that it really is only if they think it would help them. After the first appointment they may still not be quite ready to get support or set goals, or it may not be for them.

5) Book short and long slots. I used to book 45 minute slots for all of my clients, but then if one doesn’t arrive that’s a lot of time wasted. Now I book 20 minute slots and 45 minute slots. The shorter slots work well for follow ups and more regular clients and the longer ones for new clients. I also ask the client which length of appointment they would prefer. This means I can book more clients in per day and if any don’t show up then it’s not as much of a problem.

Of course, managing our client case-loads is a bit of an art and it depends on the types of clients you’d like to engage. Here in Bristol, we are working in the areas of deprivation as part of a citywide Public Health backed project. I hope that in sharing my experiences you’ve picked up something useful and would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and best practice

Will Ship

Social Prescribing Link Worker Southmead Development Trust

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Social prescribing coming of age conference: 2 key issues that emerged

We were delighted to exhibit at the King’s Fund social prescribing conference on 6th November 2018.

It was a colourful event indeed and it was fantastic seeing familiar and new faces. Over 100 people caught our link worker effect and signed up for further conversation at our stand 🙂 We are very grateful for the lovely feedback from visitors to our stand. Here is a taster

‘it was a great event and I very much enjoyed visiting the Connect Link stand’

‘what a great enthusiastic & fun team, really enjoyed talking to your staff’

The secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock also caught the link worker effect when he met with our CEO. Great support for link workers! In his keynote speech, he reiterated his commitment to social prescribing and that he was open to ideas with proven evidence and wasn’t wielded to a model. You can read his full speech.

2 key issues that emerged

2 key issues that emerged from the over 100 conversations we had with visitors to our stand:

1) Lack of a repository of all social prescribing schemes: visitors were asking for information regarding existing social prescribing schemes in their area. Social prescribing coming of age should mean improved coordination and dissemination of information. There now needs to be a collation of existing social prescribing schemes for easy public access.

2) Lack of social prescribing link worker role clarity

Firstly, it is important to clarify that we are referring to a non-clinical social prescribing link worker. It is worth noting that our members involved in social prescribing schemes are non-clinical and we are very clear about their role. Again, this highlights a lack of a coordinated dissemination of information.

The awaited NHS England social prescribing guide should help provide role clarity. Here is an excerpt.

Additionally, our ‘code of practice for link workers’ which will be launched at our ‘link worker success conference 2019′ will provide detailed role clarity. You may wish to sign up to our membership for further information

Next steps
Get in touch with us info@connectlink.org, if you have questions or for either of the following:

• Want to discuss membership?
• Want to support our link worker success conference 2019?
• Do you have an idea you would like to discuss with us?
• Do you have a project in the pipeline and would like to work with us?
• Would you like to get involved with our work?
• Do you want to be listed in our social prescribing marketplace?
• Want to discuss bespoke training?
• Do you want to discuss embedding social prescribing?

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

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