Investment in social prescribing is making a difference to the people of Leeds and to recognise this, NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will join health care professionals around the world to celebrate International Social Prescribing Day this Thursday, 12 March.
Social prescribing is a way of enabling health professionals to refer patients with social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-medical services such as debt advice or social networks.
Last year, the CCG announced it was investing £4.5 million over three years into social prescribing in Leeds, in a bid to combat anxiety, loneliness and depression – conditions which directly affect people’s mental and physical health.
The investment in social prescribing saw the creation of Linking Leeds – a single citywide service for all people (aged 16 and above) in the city, run by a group of community and voluntary organisations led by Community Links.
Katherine Sheerin, Director of system integration at NHS Leeds CCG says, “When the CCG invested in the social prescribing contract, we wanted to make the ambitions outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan around social prescribing a reality for people in Leeds. I’m delighted that the new citywide service is already making a real difference to people.”
One of those to benefit from the Linking Leeds service is Michael, a 53 year old former facilitator for young adults.
When Michael developed a debilitating lung condition, he struggled to maintain the hands on support and counselling his job required. Unable to keep working, he developed severe depression and went to his GP for help.
Michael was referred to a social prescribing link worker, who helped him identify things that would help, such as new social networks to reduce his sense of isolation. Michael was put in touch with a ‘Breathe Easy’ group near his home, where he was able to meet up with people who had similar conditions so could understand how we felt and provide emotional support. Having become so isolated because of his depression, Michael was very nervous about attending this first meeting, so his link worker joined him for that first session, providing a familiar face to help him feel comfortable in taking his take his first steps.
Michael has since gone on to regularly attend Breathe Easy sessions and has even helped form a walking football group with other members, supporting those with breathing and mobility issues to still engage with sport. He says, “Linking Leeds supported me to feel like myself again and was invaluable to ensuring I came back from a dark place.”
Ms Sheerin concludes: “As well as the benefits that social prescribing has for individuals like Michael, evidence shows that a significant number of GP appointments can be avoided if people have better access to more relevant non-medical support. So as well as directly helping local people, it can also free up GP time so they can help people with more complex medical conditions.”
If you think you or someone you know would benefit from the social prescribing service, please talk to your GP practice.
Linking Leeds is the integrated city-wide social prescribing service for people in Leeds. For more information, please visit https://www.commlinks.co.uk/?service=linking-leeds.
International Social Prescribing Day
International Social Prescribing is a celebration of social prescribing. Clinicians, allied healthcare professionals, community groups, voluntary organisations, patients, medical schools, academics, and students across the UK and world will host a series of events and activities to raise awareness of social prescribing in people of all ages. More info can be found at: https://www.socialprescribingnetwork.com/socialprescribingday.
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