PCN Social Prescribing Link Worker reflection: NALW’s work makes you feel inspired and not alone in your efforts

The Social Prescribing Link Worker Community of Practice conference on 10th October in London was just what the doctor ordered.
As a NHS Social Prescriber Linkworker myself, recently in post (3 months), the conference was a useful day that included people from all over the UK. There were speakers with presentations, group exercises and peer support.

For me what stood out was focusing on the need of new staff in these roles, which is vital, in order for us all to feel supported, which is the only way Social Prescribing as a service will survive and thrive.

Individual staff had the chance to share ideas and experiences with one another, including what caseloads look like, measuring tools, diversity, community assets and so forth.

It was beneficial to be in a space with other Link Workers, as currently there is little of this type of peer support and it is necessary in what can be an isolating role.

Speakers gave fantastic examples of great practice in their own organisations, and what was involved, including the challenges. It was inspirational to hear what they made possible for their communities and the capacity for growth, providing there is a solid team and foundation.

NALW spoke about us all needing to collectively voice the value of Link Workers and how to champion the time and resources needed for Link Workers, in order to fulfil their roles and best support patients.

NALW are working towards policies and best practice for this new and emerging role, which feels like a welcome organisation during all the current challenges and changes.

NALW recognised how Link Workers need to be recognised as a profession of its own and to stand proud amongst all the other professions, and conferences such as this one is a chance to nourish the work done by all.

Contacts were shared and a WhatsApp group has been set up in which several of those present are sharing stories during this new and nerve wracking time.

Prior to this conference, NALW included me in a peer mentoring conference call when I first started in my role, which involved learning from an experienced Link Worker and a new Social Prescribing Link Worker based elsewhere.

Since social prescribing is initially starting with one or two Link Workers for each PCN, it is key to break isolation and conferences like these and NALW’s work makes you feel inspired and not alone in your efforts.

Further information:
National Association of Link Workers is the only UK professional network for Social Prescribing Link Workers increasing professionalism and reducing isolation. A UK community of practice for all Social Prescribing Link Workers to share learning, build resilience, develop, network and support each other in order to achieve improved quality of life for themselves, their clients/patients and communities.

Contact us to get access to our exclusive 9 regional/national community of practice 2019 reports or Join here if you employ Social Prescribing Link Workers or a Link Worker.

2nd UK Annual Link Worker Day and Conference is 20th April 2020

Social Prescribing Link Worker Reflection feedback: North East Social Prescribing Link Worker Conference 15th October 2019

Reflection feedback from National Association of Link Workers North East Social Prescribing Link Worker Conference 15th October 2019 by a Social Prescribing Link Worker

On reflection after attending this conference I would like to give my opinion of what I found helpful and what positives and negatives I brought away with me.

The conference was a good sized group for me to feel confident enough to bring my own ideas and experiences forward. Not too overwhelming and a positive environment where you could discuss achievements, goals and worries around the new Roles.

I was excited about some projects that other Well -being facilitators in Durham had done and this has given me inspiration to try to get something similar set up in Hartlepool.

The group in question was a men’s group around losing weight, making friends and getting active. It had been a twelve week project, where nutrition and football had been combined to achieve weight loss goal at the end of it and some continued friendships. This had led to some of the gents, doing couch to 5k together independently after the project had finished and continue to meet up.

The only negative from that was that they had very good funding/ grants and we currently have no personal health budgets or extra spending to facilitate such a group. I am however in further conversations with my clinical lead and PCN to see if we can group together to fund something similar.

I also thought that it was great within this large team of Well -Being facilitators they had different levels of experience and worked together and in small groups to get things set up and achieved. Good support network.

It was brought to our attention that Roles were paid differently in different locations but we were all in fact doing much the same Role. Funding was also an issue in other areas.

Areas where link workers/Social prescribers were spread thinly didn’t always work best for the patient. This was due to the PCN’s still wanting more time of the Social prescribing link worker per size of practice, as opposed how many patients you would see per PCN.

I took from this that hopefully as the PCN’s work together, they will start to understand this expectation to split hours does not put the patient first. I also thought where other Social prescribing link workers at the conference, had a specific cohort of patients they seemed to have a clearer goal and better outcomes.

I thought that doing the activities together got everyone talking about different perspectives and ideas and how you could build your support network.

Projects that had ran from one hub or centre point for patients within a PCN, seemed to work well. Also having the flexibility around home visits and clinics, so as not to exclude certain patients who were in fact wanting to make changes around their health and wellbeing but unable to get to clinics.

The day gave me a feeling that we were on the right track in the way we are helping the patients but that there is a long way to go in making sure that PCN’s understand our new roles. Previously with Care coordinators they had a strict guideline of Cohort patients and it will be a challenge to get the correct referrals coming through. For example rather than the patient being at crisis point at the time of referral, to get them to see the social prescribing link workers early on in diagnosis or treatments. Then prevention steps can be taken to help the patient have control over their Health and Wellbeing and get valuable support before medications are their only option.Discussions were had around not racing to fix people. Being gradual with approach to get the best outcomes and not pressure people into making quick (non -sustainable changes) came out from the day. Looking at how we can enable the patient more to gain in confidence, to enable them to take control of their health going forward (long after our interventions).

The NHS England guide of 250 patients per full time Social prescriber seemed varied. Those that were able to take on large groups may be seeing more and those that worked Part time and lone working were seeing less.

Explaining this to PCN’s is quite difficult over a few surgeries.

Five surgeries over one PCN and a four day 30 hour week

Seeing Five patients a week (possibly one per surgery) sounds silly to the surgeries but is actually one more than expectations to get best outcomes and be able to review and spend time with these patients. Being able to accompany patient’s places and support them in their choices is part of the role but not achievable if you are assigned to half a day in each practice. Flexibility is a must to get the Best from the role and outcomes for the patient.

You may see more if they are all navigation patients and less if more complex cases.

It would seem that large teams have this distributed out to relevant staff. Those lone works and small teams covering multiple surgeries will possibly just end up fire fighting and not using the role in the correct and most useful way if PCN’s do not see its 250 per PCN and not split equally over surgeries.

This is something to keep in mind and hopefully to keep putting the point across, that it is patient numbers per PCN and not how many per surgery.

I hope that there will be some other conferences that I can attend in the future. The more Knowledge and support you have within Social Prescribing can only be a positive.

I would definitely recommend this to my other colleagues. I found it helpful, insightful and enjoyed the experience of meeting other Social prescribing link workers to share best practice.

NB: note to be reproduced without our permission

Further information:

National Association of Link Workers is the only UK professional network for Social Prescribing Link Workers increasing professionalism and reducing isolation. A UK community of practice for all Social Prescribing Link Workers to share learning, build resilience, develop, network and support each other in order to achieve improved quality of life for themselves, their clients/patients and communities. Contact us to get access to our exclusive 9 regional/national community of practice 2019 reports or  Join here if you employ Social Prescribing Link Workers or a Link Worker.

2nd UK Annual Link Worker Day and Conference is 20th April 2020 

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

1st ever national social prescribing link worker day 8th July 2019

A national day to celebrate and showcase the contribution of social prescribing link workers in improving population health and wellbeing. This coincides with the 1st ever national social prescribing link worker conference taking place in London.

Who can participate?
• Anyone who has directly benefited from being supported by a link worker or social prescribing scheme
• Anyone who has witnessed in any other way the difference social prescribing brings to individuals/communities
• Anyone who thinks it may support them or a family member in the future

Including but not limited to:
• Social prescribing link workers
• Patients
• Families
• Carers
• Social prescribing schemes and suppliers
• GPs & Health Clinicians
• Allied Health Professionals
• Social Prescribing related volunteers
• Commissioners
• Academics

How can you participate?

A. Celebrate & showcase

1. Answer in not more than 200 characters or record video no longer than 1 minute
highlighting how a link worker and/or social prescribing has helped you or might help you or has helped your patient or user?

– You can use the opportunity to celebrate and showcase your local social prescribing scheme, primary care network and link workers as appropriate

2. Post your answer on twitter, Facebook, Instagram as appropriate using #linkworkerday19 #GlueInHSC on 8th July 2019

3. To showcase your answers in our online gallery, national conference & brochure and social media channels on 8th July 2019, please send your answers to michelle@connectlink.org by 3rd June 2019
Please include:
o Your name
o Twitter handle, if applicable
o Indicate your connection to social prescribing (e.g. carer, patient, GP, social prescribing link worker, commissioners, manager, etc)

B. Raise awareness
1. Use the official social media, logo, email kits for your profile to raise awareness and to create your own swag including t-shirts, fliers etc.

2. Use #linkworkerday19 #glueinhsc on social media

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