by Alison Leitch (Community Link Worker Network Area Lead (North Edinburgh)) on social prescribing in Scotland.
Social prescribing, is an approach (or range of approaches) for connecting people to non-medical sources of support or resources in the community which are likely to help with the health problems they are experiencing.
There are various different models of social prescribing in place across Scotland. Many of these involve a social practitioner often referred to as a link worker, social prescriber or community navigator/connector who work with people on a person-centred approach to link into local resources. The work may be carried out over a number of sessions to ensure trusting relationships can be built with the aim of reducing as many barriers as possible to ensure the outcome is successful.
It is important to recognise that people’s health and wellbeing are determined mostly by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, and social prescribing aims to address people’s needs in a holistic way. GPs do not have the time to assist with poor housing, financial worries or someone looking to rebuild their confidence to get back into work. However, people have a huge amount of trust in their doctors and when times are tough, they are often the first port of call. By being able to offer social prescribing, practitioners are able to empower individuals to take greater control of their own health and well-being which in turn can help alleviate pressure on state services.
Social prescribing can involve a range of activities that are mostly provided by community and third sector organisations. Examples can include peer support groups, volunteering, arts groups, gardening, befriending, and physical activities. With ever growing pressure on primary and secondary care services, social prescribing absolutely has a vital role to play
From previously having a case load, I have witnessed first hand the difference taking time to get to know a patient and their story can make. Having someone place their trust in you is an honour and when a patient agrees to try something new for the first time, it gives a great sense of job satisfaction. A lady I worked with wrote;
“I’m so glad that my GP introduced us. Everyone who is in difficulty should have a Community Link Worker – or as I prefer to call them a Light Worker. My life changed for the better from the moment I met mine!”
Social prescribing really is a no brainer!