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.

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

What every non-clinical ‘link’ worker must know

A non-clinical link worker role:  Some things to think about

The role of a non-clinical link worker isn’t new.  

What is new is the growing evidence that this type of role can play an invaluable part in helping to meet the national priority of ‘improving population health and wellbeing’.

Growing evidence is resulting in:

 

    New interest in the role:

    From organisations: those interested in providing a ‘link’ service and

    From people: those already performing a link worker role or are interested in considering the role (see our Non-Clinical Career Pathway).

    Need for clarification of the role:

    Currently the role is being referred to with different language, different titles dependent on the type of organisation (e.g. health care, social care and community or charity). (see our ‘Connect Link’ support:  roles and scope)

 

Some clarification:

The role of a link worker can be as a paid employee or as a volunteer (we’ll talk about a volunteer role in a different blog post as it brings with it its own unique set of considerations).

Whether as a paid or volunteer role, the function is the same:

Gain understanding and create access:  ‘connect’ and ‘link’

 

     “Spend time understanding clients’ individual situation, needs and aspirations and then

     Help them to access community based support and activities (e.g. peer support groups, debt counselling, housing assistance, etc.) and to utilise their own skills and experience through volunteering.  

     The expectation is that this type of support will help people be well and independent in the community, thereby, in time, reducing demand on primary and secondary care services and preventing the escalation of need.”  (source:  Wigan Community Link Worker (CLW) service)

 

    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