The third UK Annual Social Prescribing Link Worker Day took place on Friday 8th October 2021 to celebrate and showcase Social Prescribing Link Workers and the link between community, and health and social care.
Amongst the audience were Social Prescribing Link Worker’s, Programme Facilitators, Health and Social Care Influencers, Primary Care Networks, and Allied Health Care Professionals from across all sectors in the UK.
The aim of the virtual conference was to increase awareness of the role of Social Prescribing Link Worker’s, boost professionalism, and provide the virtual opportunity to share best practice, and network with industry experts and leaders.
The conference was a huge success that featured a host of fantastic speakers and thought leaders, Dame Gill Morgan, Chair, ICS Network Advisorate, Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (The ALLIANCE), Dr Bola Owolabi, Director of Inequalities, NHS England/NHS Improvement, Martin Hayes, Director of Integrated Care, Health and Social Care Northern Ireland, and Helen Howson, Director of the Bevan Commission and Bevan Academy, who discussed utlising the Social Prescribing Link Worker model to creatively disrupt inequalities and power up integrated care.
If you missed the conference, here are our top takeaways:
The Covid19 pandemic has had many impacts on individual physical health, illness, stress, financial insecurity and the majority of us are experiencing and observing now more than ever the impact on mental health and wellbeing. There has been an estimated 40% increase in mental health needs and it’s not difficult to see why this has happened as there has been excess bereavement, extra care responsibilities, isolation, increase in stress and anxiety, many of us have been furloughed, and those who haven’t have had massive job insecurities.
Stevie Spring CBE, Chairman of Mind stated that the mental health charity did rolling research throughout the pandemic on approximately 20,000 individuals and mental health deteriorated for the vast majority of 60% as all adults felt their mental health had decreased. 75-80% of those suffering with mental health fragility had got worse and two thirds of young people’s mental health has been affected.
Measuring the impact of social prescribing and health inequalities can be challenging and requires a long term approach. What we do know from evidence available is that social prescribing can have positive outcomes for individuals in terms of wellbeing, physical activity, mental health and loneliness. However, further evaluation and collection of evidence is required to be able to make specific conclusions on what works and what doesn’t. Evidence is important to measure and understand the model of care and baseline, discover who faces health inequalities, what we can learn from outcomes, and organisations need a system to be able to do this holistically.
New ways of working
Most of the current models of social prescribing assume that there is a reasonable level of community infrastructure and resources in place and that’s not always the case in localities.
It was discussed that social prescribing is a young industry and if you are a professional within the area, you are in fact an entrepreneur in your own right as you do and learn to work in an environment where you can try new things, get to know people, families, and communities, and think outside the box.
It was encouraged to challenge yourself to new ways of working and to get creative about recognising the individual needs of people within the community, build knowledge on background before and after the pandemic and remember that although we have all been through the pandemic together, we may not have been through it equally as different communities have suffered in different ways.
With trying new ways of working we can share the results and lead the change through social prescribing networks.
Social Prescribing Link Workers and allied care workers have been through a real tough pandemic. The last 18 months – 2 years have been difficult and it’s important for our social prescribing heroes to look after themselves to ensure they can look after other people. Link Workers are doing an amazing job and it’s time to tell the success stories of how social prescriptions have been personalised, trust has been built with individuals, and social connections have been formed. We know that people need help with motivation, we know that people need help with connections, and sharing the success of social prescribing will not only empower individuals, it will help build robust evaluation.
Social prescribing which is grounded in the community development principles, health promotion values, empathy, experience, and co-production can all help tackle health inequalities.
The future of social prescribing
When looking to the future of social prescribing it is hoped that collaborative working continues to tackle health inequalities to carry the hopes, ambitions, and aspirations of many people. The overall vision is to provide quality of care for all and to be the voice of people within communities, margins, and societies.
Overall, the profile of Link Workers and the National Association of Link Workers is growing in health and health policy circles and delightful to see that the event was supported by the Minister for Health, Maria Caulfield.
Maria Caulfield, Minister for Health
“Staying connected to our communities can be hugely beneficial for our mental health – it reduces loneliness and improves wellbeing.
Link Workers have been instrumental in supporting communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, and they continue to play a key role as we look to the future in addressing health inequalities. I want to thank all of you for your hard work.
The UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country and as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, we are committed to improving the pathway in primary care to ensure over 900,000 people are referred to social prescribing schemes by 2023-24. Link Workers are at the heart of that ambition.”
Elemental would also like to congratulate the winners or all the Social Prescribing Link Worker Day Awards.