Social Prescribing – healthy solutions in the community

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CAN’s work in organising and delivering Social prescribing in Breckland and West Norfolk has reached more than 1,600 people since its inception, and garnered recognition as a finalist at 2019’s International Social Prescribing Awards. 

Social Prescribing works by enabling GPs, nurses, and other frontline care professionals, rather than prescribing medication or formal treatment, to refer people to a ‘link worker’ who helps who helps direct the person to community-based, non-clinical support. Those solutions might include volunteering, arts activities, adult education, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice or physical activity. 

Each case is individual of course, and one particular client was referred by her GP having presented with dementia, with her partner as her main carer. 

Triage assessment showed that the client was still able to live at home – a very positive factor in itself. She could function normally at times, but with slight memory loss and confusion on occasion. The client was insistent that she didn’t want any help or support from a stranger coming into the home, but it was clear that her carer  was struggling to maintain his partner's care and appeared frustrated at times by the situation. 

Our link worker proposed applying for Attendance Allowance to assist with the financial burden of paying for extra professional care. A referral was made to Chatterton House (Adult Community Mental Health Service in West Norfolk, King’s Lynn) for a mental health assessment, and to Cambridgeshire County Council for a social worker to assist with possible respite care, allowing the carer a break from the day-to-day 24-hour care regime. 

Sadly, the client was unable to move forward on this, or take any responsibility, as she showed limited understanding of how her actions and outbursts were contributing to the emotional wellbeing of her carer. 

After some time the social worker supported access to respite care for the client in a residential unit for two or three weeks. The aim was to enable the carer to recharge their batteries and to continue the care at home after the client’s break. The respite care is now set for every six weeks, so that the carer is allowed a break from the day-to-day 24-hour care regime, and thereby continue to care for his partner at home. 

The impact on the carer was significant. He could continue caring for his partner at home, knowing that he could look forward to a regular break. Even more positively, during her time in respite care, the client grew to accept care from strangers. The outcome has been that professional carers are now able to come to her home to help twice each day. This is now working well – she enjoys meeting the carers and actually looks forward to their arrival each day. 

The Social Prescribing service was, then, able to help on two fronts. Firstly, to support the client’s own needs beyond that which her carer and partner could provide. Secondly, to help support her partner and carer who had, at times, felt very depressed and even suicidal, as he had not known where to turn to for help and support.  

The link worker was also able to surmount the barriers sometimes experienced in working across   county boundaries in cross-referring and co-ordinating the best possible combination of support for a vulnerable individual and her carer/partner 

You can read more about CAN’s work in Social prescribing here