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

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

Link working trends that you need to be aware of

‘Link’ working connecting people to the right professionals, services and activities at the right time to contribute to their health and wellbeing.

Whilst a degree of application of the role has come and gone over the years, the role is newly being recognised for its potential value in all sectors.  

Why the new recognition? 

There’s new evidence to suggest that the role can help all sectors manage their common unrelenting struggle to deliver good service despite growing patient demand, over stretched budgets and a very fatigued workforce.

The pressure for a solution, quickly, means a dynamic and varied ‘link’ workplace is emerging, referring to service with different language, being carried out under different titles, with different roles, dependent on sector.  Some of the current service references include:

Social prescribing (sometimes referred to as community referral, carried out by a link worker or navigator, is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services in order to provide high quality, holistic care (source:  The King’s Fund)

Care navigation (helping people to get the right support, at the right time to help manage a wide range of needs.  This may include support with long term conditions, help with finances and signposting to a range of statutory and voluntary sector services (source:  Health Education England)

Active signposting (a type of care navigation, asking for a little bit more information of patients to help correctly and quickly, at the first point of contact, signpost to the right professionals, services or activities (source: NHS England Primary Care Development)

Link (existing well before any other role, designed to support people in identifying and navigating personalised innovative opportunities and solutions to support the self-management of their complex health and social care needs (source: Age UK).

Are the descriptions above ringing true to your experience?  Anything to add? Feel free to get in touch or leave comments below.

Whichever the service offering above, there’s no doubt that success of service offering is directly tied to the degree that those who deliver the role are set up for success! We’re here to help, should you need it.

5 point checklist for ‘Volunteer’ link workers

5 point checklist

Below is a list of what many of you have contributed, resulting in a co-produced 5 point checklist. (Note:  This is not an exhaustive.  Join in on the discussion!   Provide a comment to add or propose an edit.)

 

   1. KNOW yourself

  –    Your motivation for volunteering

 –    The role and scope of volunteer work you want

 –    Your ambitions

 –    Your abilities

 –    Your limitations

   Your boundaries

 –    Your measure(s) of success

 

   2. KNOW your organisation (provider of the service)

  –    Their purpose

 –    Their people

 –    Who they work with, their networks and how they are thought of in your community

 –    How they work

–    Their plan(s)

 –   Their accomplishment(s) and challenges

–   Their expectations of this role

 –  The support in place for this role

 

  3. KNOW your community

 –    Community culture

 –    Community way of working (processes, etc.)

–    Community plans

–    Community services

 –    Community networks

 

  4. KNOW the people you are to help

–    Their goals 

–    Their needs

     Their skills and experience

     The amount of help they will accept and wish to give

     Their current support and any gaps

 

  5. KNOW to network to accomplish all of the above well!

 

    To create a ‘connection’ of your own support with like-minded folks to ask questions of, exchange ideas with, gain tips and tools and sometimes a bit of refuge :-)) — JOIN our ‘connection link’ here

 

 What to KNOW more?  

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  Click below for links to key documents or sites that may be of interest.

–    Improving population health:  https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/what-does-improving-population-health-mean

–    Wigan-CLW-service-evaluation:  http://www.innovationunit.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Wigan-CLW-service-evaluation.pdf

–    Social prescribing:  what is it?  https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-prescribing