What is a Social Prescribing Link Worker

What is a Social Prescribing Link Worker

What is a Social Prescribing Link Worker? Social Prescribing Link Workers use strength-based approaches to increase people’s confidence to take control of their health and wellbeing. They work in partnership with people, actively listening to understand what matters to them from a holistic perspective, cocreating action plans and goals to meet their needs. This means they need to gain and maintain people’s trust and confidence.

What is a Social Prescribing Link Worker

Social Prescribing Link Workers undertake varying roles and responsibilities dependent on the local social prescribing model. However these generic core summary applies.
Someone who:

✓ Uses a strength based approach to increase people’s confidence to take control of their health wellbeing

✓ Builds trust and relationships with people

✓ Gives people time to talk about what matters to them

✓ Actively listens to understand what matters to people from a holistic perspective

✓ Co-creates solutions with people

✓ Enables and supports access to solutions

✓ Facilitates joined up care and social inclusiveness

✓ Is knowledgeable about the range of local support available to help with people’s wellbeing issues

Recommended references:

Code of Practice for Social Prescribing

NHS England Social Prescribing reference guide for Primary Care Networks

10 things NHS need to get right to properly implement social prescribing nationally

Social Prescribing NHS

1. Social prescribing is complex: Whilst funding is important, we must avoid mandated approaches which reduce complex human processes to a series of mechanical steps. Social prescribing is about building relationship and trust which takes time.

2. Social policy: we need to think broader about the social and wider determinants of health and social policy addressing these. Otherwise we are scratching the surface. Social prescribing link worker cannot perform magic, we need an honest conversation across government departments about policies that are unhelpful or hindering positive social prescribing outcomes.

3. Evaluating impact needs a different approach to the typical linear, cause and effect method the NHS typically uses. Otherwise the danger is we end up measuring the wrong things, not those that matter to people. This can lead to a perception of failure of social prescribing. There appears to be too much pressure on PCNs to measure outcomes too soon to justify the investment, this doesn’t reflect the realty on the ground regarding how long and what is required to get the outcomes. It also does not take into account that most complex interventions require multiple people / organisations to play a role in those outcomes.

4. A joint commissioning approach is needed as NHS is not the only funder in social prescribing. This is about NHS joining others who are already funding social prescribing link workers. The number of existing social prescribing link workers far exceeds the current NHS link worker funding commitment for 2019/2020.

5. Lack of emphasis on coproduction: There is isn’t wide enough recognition of the importance of coproduction. Patients and link workers are key to successful social prescribing outcomes, yet policies have not been informed by them. The success of social prescribing relies on the success of link workers to maintain public confidence in social prescribing link workers. The code of practice for social prescribing developed by the National Association of Link Workers is non-model specific, which increases consistency in professional practice, ensures professional competence and public confidence.

6. Key learnings have not been acknowledged by policy makers and we risk relearning mistakes and wasting taxpayers money. NHS must acknowledge, learn from what has gone on before, collaborate and not try to reinvent the wheel.

7. Duplication: by separating the new 1000 link workers in primary care networks from existing link workers, we are concerned that unhelpful and unnecessary bureaucracy is being created and that may increase inequality and risk to patient safety.

8. VCSE: Without support and funding the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector’s role in social prescribing will be unsustainable. 74% of link workers who responded to our survey in 2019 identified a lack of funding or services in the community was the biggest challenge to their role. VCSE provide support to the person beyond link worker. Therefore, it is essential that they are able to do this.

9. Social Prescribing Link Worker workforce: much thought needs to go into making link working attractive; link worker pay equity, workload, retention, training, peer support and wellbeing. As well as consideration for the role of volunteers.

10. Understanding the value social prescribing link workers bring: Primary Care Networks need to be allowed time to understand the role and value social prescribing link workers would bring to their practice and local population and what is required. As the funding to employ a link worker isn’t ring fenced, we are concerned that a lack of understanding could result in preference to substitute between link worker and other roles. Furthermore, recruitment for link workers should not be reduced to a tick box exercise. Whilst, financial incentive is good, it would not be enough to properly implement social prescribing nationally. Ensuring understanding of the value link workers bring and invoking the intrinsic motivation of primary care networks, communities and patients is essential.

For questions, comments and enquiries, contact  National Association of Link Workers

Reference materials

Getting to know link workers

Code of practice for social prescribing

Setting Social Prescribing Link Workers up for success: what you must know

Setting Social Prescribing Link Workers up for success

Social Prescribing Link Workers are integral part of the primary care network team, delivering holistic service to patients and improving the health of the local population. If social prescribing is designed correctly, it will mainstream joined up care across the health and social care system, help reduce the workload for GPs, build patient resilience and enable access to community-based support that can help improve their health and well-being. Social Prescribing Link Worker brings the community into NHS and enables move to a social model of health.

Social prescribing is about adopting a community centred approach to ensure sustainability:

• Seeing the community as part of the solution and not the problem
• Power shifting to the community to do something for itself
• Engaging with the community
• Citizen power rather than tokenistic or consultative engagement.

Social Prescribing Link Workers work with effective pathways and community infrastructures to address local challenges. In order to the get the most out of the social prescribing link workers, they need to be adequately supported as highlighted in our report.

It is important that local key stakeholders, including health and social care professionals, service beneficiaries and referrers understand the need and limitations for the role.

A Social Prescribing Link Worker is a key component of the social prescribing programme. The social prescribing programme encompasses building relationship and trust within and outside the primary care network and coproducing the local model with the community assets.

It is essential to work collaboratively with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE). They provide long term support beyond link worker. A social prescribing link worker is an expert in connecting and linking. Therefore, it is important that there is a VCSE and Volunteer infrastructure for the link worker to connect and link people to.

To be effective in the role, a social prescribing link worker needs to have the:
• Right personality
• Right skills
• Right knowledge
Right practice

The skills and experience required to fulfil the role should be informed by the local challenges addressed through social prescribing and the outcomes desired. In addition to skills, knowledge and personal attributes highlighted in the link worker report and code of practice for high quality social prescribing practice, the social prescribing link worker needs to be approachable, patient and trustworthy.

Here is what a current link worker said

“In order for me to have a good relationship with my client that I am working with they need to feel comfortable talking to me. It makes no difference how skilled I am or how willing the client is to engage, if they don’t feel comfortable working with me, talking to me, or sharing their problems with me then I am not likely to be very successful in keeping them engaged and completing any tasks that have been identified for support”

As a rule of thumb, social prescribing link workers should be able to:

• Use a strength-based approach to increase people’s confidence to take control of their health wellbeing
• Build trust and relationships with people
• Be non-judgemental in listening to what matters to people.
• Actively listen to understand what matters to people from a holistic perspective
• Jointly create action plans and goals with people to meet their needs from a holistic perspective.
• Be knowledgeable about the range of local support available to help with people’s wellbeing issues
• Enable and support access to community-based support
• Facilitate joined up care and social inclusiveness
• Work in partnership with colleagues, other professionals, communities and organisations to promote the well-being and choice of individuals and carers.

To mention some skills required:

• Active listening
• Person centred
• Emotional resilience
• Empathy
• Emotional intelligence
• Advocacy
• Coaching
• Goal setting
• Problem solving

With such a varied role, continuing professional development is necessary. Learning needs should be constantly reviewed and driven by local population need.

Lack of adequate social prescribing link worker support will result in low link worker moral and motivation and effectiveness. Our comprehensive social prescribing link worker support offer is for organisations and primary care networks who wish to reduce costs as a result of high staff turn over and increase successful social prescribing programme (key performance indicators) KPIs. You can contact us to discuss our comprehensive social prescribing link worker support offer or sign up for standard membership here if eligible

Reference materials

Who is a social prescribing link worker

Checklist for setting social prescribing link workers up for success

Code of practice

Getting to know link workers

Spotlight: Occupational Therapist and Social prescribing link worker partnership working

A social prescribing link worker is a ‘trusted resource’ that can help multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), including occupational therapists, deliver seamless holistic services to patients.

We partnered with the Royal College of Occupational Therapists to spotlight Occupational Therapist (OT) and Social prescribing link worker partnership working in order to increase understanding of the role link workers can play in MDTs.

Read extracts from the OT news article:

Make the most of the ‘trusted resource’ of link workers

How our member, Reading Voluntary Action is working with occupational therapist referrals to give people the community support they need

Further information:

www.connectlink.org

email info@connectlink.org

link worker report
www.rcot.co.uk/news/occupational-therapy-role-social-prescribing

How to recruit the right social prescribing link worker

In order to increase social prescribing success, organisations need to recruit the right link worker who will help achieve the desired patient outcomes.

Link workers role involves building trust and relationships. Therefore, the right person needs to be recruited to have positive impacts on patients.

Recruiting the right link worker is about:

Firstly, you will need to get the foundation right before recruiting:

  1. Do you fully understand the role you are trying to recruit? Can you describe what makes the role unique?
  2. Do you know the local problem that you are solving?
  3. Do you know the outcomes you seek?
  4. Do you know what is required to achieve the outcomes?

If you are not too sure about 1-4 or need support recruiting the right link worker, get in touch with us.

The 1st ever national social prescribing link worker conference coincides with link worker day, 8th July 2019. It will be a national day of sharing, learning and network for primary care networks, existing and future social prescribing schemes.

Why GP receptionists and social prescribing link workers are crucial to sustaining general practice

In every industry, customer focus is an essential ingredient for success. This also, applies to health and social care organisations. General practice must place customer/patients’ needs at the centre, ensure services and roles are aligned around those needs in order to be sustainable.

Two crucial roles aligned to patient needs which are crucial to sustaining general practice:

1. GP receptionists: firstly, job titles should reflect the customer/patient need addressed. This role should meet patients’ need for a ‘GATEWAY’ NOT a gatekeeper for their health and wellbeing needs.

2. Social prescribing link workers: This role should meet patients’ need for a ‘GLUE’ for their holistic health and wellbeing needs.

The coproduced theme for the 1st ever national social prescribing link worker conference on 8th July 2019 is “The Glue in Healthcare”

Designing services and roles wrapped around patient needs

Service need Role examples Job titles
Active signposting/gateway GP receptionist/patient navigator your assignment
Social prescribing Link worker/community connector your assignment

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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Get involved: top tips for social prescribing day

Social prescribing is a key part of the NHS long term plan and universal personalised care. It is a way of enabling people to have access to the right support for their wellbeing and social needs through referral to a listening and non-judgemental expert called a link worker; who listens to what matters to them in order to help them identify their own solutions. Save the date, 8th July is #linkworkerday19, a day to celebrate link workers- A.KA listening experts.

March 14 is a day to raise public awareness of social prescribing. Whether you an individual or an organisation, you can do something to raise awareness within your network and community.

Here are 5 ideas to get involved:

Get involved on social media using #socialprescribingday

Give free talks at community events or within your network

Host online/in person live events. You can do this yourself or in partnership with others

Hold an Information stall

Create and distribute pamphlets

Examples of where to raise awareness:

Libraries

Social media

Local newspapers and radio

Your network (friends, family, colleagues )

Local community groups

Schools

Sports club/Gym/ leisure centres

Local businesses/organisations

GP surgeries

Hospitals

Newsletters

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For further information
Social prescribing day

NHS England

Link worker network

National Association of Link Workers response to universal personalised care

We welcome the universal comprehensive care implementation model as it demonstrates a radical shift from the status quo. Having been co-produced with patients and communities. Finally, the NHS recognises that its role is to facilitate, enable patients and communities (the experts) to come up with solutions to their concerns and to not dictate the solutions. The delivery challenge would be to ensure that this power shift is sustained and continues to be the case. As ever, we are committed to collaborating with partners to support link workers who are the new workforce at the heart of the universal personalised care delivery.

Our link worker members are listening experts’ who help build people’s resilience and capability to take control of their health and wellbeing. They enable people have access to support for their holistic needs and facilitate social inclusiveness by listening to them. This role is highly complex; it requires robust link worker support provision, on the job learning and evidence of continuous professional development. As patients listening experts,  the link worker community of practice expect same; to be listened to, not to be professionally excluded and to be supported in order to help others; this is the reason for our existence as an association.

Link workers are the only workforce across health and social care whose dedicated job is largely to listen to what matters to people. Therefore, if someone is not good at listening to people stories or isn’t approachable, a link worker’s  job will be inappropriate regardless of professional qualifications and accreditations. Here is what a current link worker said

“In order for me to have a good relationship with my client that I am working with they need to feel comfortable talking to me. It makes no difference how skilled I am or how willing the client is to engage, if they don’t feel comfortable working with me, talking to me, or sharing their problems with me then I am not likely to be very successful in keeping them engaged and completing any tasks that have been identified for support”

With the increased interest in the link worker role and the fact that it is not a regulated profession, it is crucial that the essence of the role and social prescribing is preserved; which is a dedicated person to listen to what matters to patients, enabling them have access to their solutions and facilitating social connectedness.  This is the reason the over 1000 new link workers need to join their peers inorder to reduce risk of inconsistencies in professional standards across the country and to be supported .

If social prescribing is designed correctly, it will mainstream joined up care once & for all, which will be good for patients and the health and social care system. Therefore, we would expect local delivery teams to co-produce effective patient pathways to empower link workers so that they are efficient in their role.

We welcome the commitment to increasing link worker capacity. 5 link worker per primary care network is a good start. However, capacity will need to be increased, especially with the various link worker access points including self-referrals. A robust and effective voluntary and community sector infrastructure is also required to enable efficient delivery in order for link worker to hold a minimum case load of 200-250 per year’. Primary care networks ought to be supported to increase link worker capacity based on their local population need and as required; some may require more than 5 link workers to manage 200-250 case load per year. The consequences of inaction regarding increasing link worker capacity would include;

  • The link worker’s job becoming unattractive due to the unmanageable workload and burnout. Some link workers are already suffering burnout. Look after us to look after you.

“I am actually managing caseloads and not just signposting, it can be overwhelming”

  • Lack of patient confidence and poor patient outcomes. Patients resulting to the default; accessing clinical support for non-clinical need due to link worker waiting list. Some areas operate a link worker waitlist.

“I have asked the GP to stop referring patients until I have managed to finish supporting those that have been referred, we need more link workers”

  • Poor patient experience arising from link worker not empowered to have time to listen and to support the person. Here is what a link worker said is important

“the most important thing that I can do is to listen to someone – if I don’t listen there is no point in my link worker role”

Overall, universal personalised care is a welcomed aspiration. It is important that organisations understand how complex and crucial the link worker role is. And therefore, fully commit to supporting link workers so they can be effective in their role. Our link worker success conference coincides with Link worker day on 8th July.

For further comments and questions, please email info@connectlink.org