Connecting for wellbeing
Connecting for wellbeing or ‘social prescribing’ is a way to help people make positive changes in their lives and within their communities by linking to voluntary and community groups and other non clinical services that can help them to feel more involved in the community, meet new people or make some changes to improve health and wellbeing.
Social prescribing is an effective way of linking individuals with early interventions and prevention support within the community and could reduce or postpone the need for health and social care interventions; promoting long-term health and wellbeing amongst the population of Essex and ensuring that people can remain independent for as long as possible.
Seven Social Prescribing pilots were funded across Essex during 2015-2017 as part of a £1.2m pilot programme establishing a local model to link individuals that have medical and non-medical issues to early interventions within the community.
- Basildon & Brentwood - Social Prescribing
- Castle Point & Rochford - Ways to Wellness
- Mid Essex - Connect Well
- North East Essex - Tendring Mental Health Hub and Colchester My Social Prescription
- West Essex - Smart Life
- Southend - Social Prescribing
The initiative aims to promote long-term health, wellbeing and independence, while reducing the demand in primary care services. Individuals self-refer or are referred by GPs, nurses or social care and develop a personal plan through a guided conversation to manage their care. Activities and provision are aligned by voluntary and community sector leads to increase access to third sector and community support for patients and shape a more sustainable infrastructure.
Social Prescribers are commissioned to work with delivery partners in each locality; transforming community capacity to support vulnerable people and training several hundred volunteers. Social prescriptions will be issued through health settings and community networks. These might include opportunities for physical activity, self-care management courses, arts and creativity, learning new skills, volunteering, mutual aid, befriending and self-help, as well as support with, for example, employment, benefits, housing, debt, legal advice, or parenting.
During the pilot period across six of the seven Social Prescribing models (excluding the Tendring project for which the number of referrals was not available):
- 5,461 people were referred to the projects, of whom 5,251 were supported and 2,552 were ‘substantive engagements’ (i.e. received more intensive support)
- 59% reduction in the use of primary care i.e GP appointments
- 34% reduction in number of prescriptions received by those referred
- 31% reduction in the use of secondary care i.e outpatient appointments
- 25% reduction in the use of social care.
Esta had recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia (in her late fifties), lived alone and felt isolated. She was unsure about contacting dementia services directly as she felt her age would set her apart from many other service users but wanted to be part of a community.
Esta was linked to some free training for managing mental health and improving wellbeing, signed up as a Time Bank member to make new friends and registered a request for support at home. She is able to meet more people and learn about new activities without feeling that her health condition defines her interactions with other people.
The support enabled Esta to determine a pathway of self-management.
Connect Well Essex
In North East Essex, Community 360 has been operating a social prescribing service – My Social Prescription – since January 2013. The scheme has been working with EssexConnects for over two years to make dozens of links between individuals and groups. So when multi agency partners in Mid Essex were looking for a quick and easy way to utilise community assets to respond to social need in Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon, it made sense to build on EssexConnects.
Community 360 and Chelmsford Centre Supporting Voluntary Action (supported by Maldon CVS and Community 360) have been working with partners across Mid Essex, Colchester, Sheffield and Calderdale to develop a brand new online referral tool – Connect Well Essex – to support local social prescribing schemes.
The Connect Well service seeks to improve people’s health and wellbeing by linking them to activities in the community that they might benefit from. With the help of 200 trained Social Prescribing Champions, Connect Well provides residents with an easy way to access a wide variety of support and services on their doorstep. These Champions also meet with members of the public face to face in pharmacies, housing associations, councils, GP practices and other public places to assist in signposting to a range of help and through the online Connect Well website.
Communities across the country are increasingly using the "more than medicine" approach of social prescribing, and GPs are keen on the plan, which sees early intervention and prevention support reducing or postponing the need for health and social care involvement.
Connect Well has been funded by the Transformation Challenge Award, from the Department of Community and Local Government (DCLG) through the Essex Partnership. The initiative has been developed by a wide range of organisations working in partnership, including voluntary organisations, local councils, health, housing and GP practices.