How Social Prescribing Can Ensure Quality of Life After Mental Health Diagnosis
Today’s blog is written by Director of Social Inclusion and Participation at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Michael Crilly.
I’ve been a part of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust for almost nine years now and in all that time I have never really met anyone who wakes up with a burning desire to “access services”.
I’m proud to say that every day I meet people who care passionately about the need for high quality services to support people when they need them, but I’ve never met anyone who wanted services to be their final destination.
For me, the things people really want are somewhere to live; something to do, and someone to love – in short, they want a life that is their very own.
That shouldn’t really be a surprise to any of us as it is pretty much what I think we all desire. We may approach that from different perspectives and from different starting points but it is pretty much common to us all as human beings.
Enjoying a life beyond diagnosis
Mental health services cannot just be about getting people to discharge, but rather they need to be about helping people get back to a life which they are fulfilled by. A diagnosis of any kind may well be an important part of who we are for the rest of our lives, but it can never and indeed should never, be the whole story.
It’s in that context that I would like to reflect upon how the growing social prescribing movement helps people living with the reality of mental distress to support and maintain their recovery.
In mental health services we can often be unwittingly guilty of creating a dependency culture that prevents people from moving on with their life and learning.
Through new approaches to social prescribing and improved access to community-based assets, I now see people moving on from that dependency so as to improve their health and their quality of life.
Social prescribing and building community capacity
At Mersey Care, we have an aspiration to deliver Perfect Care and services of the very highest quality that are essential in enabling people to find life. In this context, it is quite natural that we should look at how our people can discover and enjoy a life beyond diagnosis; beyond services; beyond Mersey Care.
For us, a significant response to this human reality has been found in social prescribing and in the building of community capacity. With the development of our Life Rooms’ Centres, we have sought to create a sustainable infrastructure that empowers individuals and communities to discover and achieve new life and purpose.
Our Life Rooms make a powerful statement by being situated at the heart of communities and open to all. The Life Rooms offers practical community resources for groups and individuals, in addition to wellbeing support and opportunities around social factors such as housing, employment and money matters, which can impact health and wellbeing.
Creating opportunities for people to learn about their own health
I am proud that our Life Rooms is an NHS service that works in such a way that it now brings together over 100 partners across the voluntary, statutory and private sector in order to provide a range of non-clinical opportunities for advice, support, learning and self-development.
This helps to deliver further integration between health and social care in the creation of a more responsive and wider health community. What we developed originally, was a means of supporting people out of statutory mental health crisis, but crucially what we’ve now developed is a new model of community health care that empowers the individual to look for solutions to social problems before a crisis occurs.
A key feature of our work rests in creating opportunities for people to learn about their own health and wellbeing. This helps them to make simple changes so as to build a life which is fulfilling, connected, enjoyable and ultimately, healthy. Interestingly, our evaluation of the Life Rooms demonstrates the impact both in terms of people moving beyond services as well as a means of preventing people needing to access services in the first place.
For me this model of social resource empowerment starts to embed within, and compliment, clinical pathways so as to create real health services as opposed to illness treatment services. To me, that’s quite a radical new vision.
Joining forces with Elemental in a shared vision to improve lives
We partnered with Elemental to improve the way that we referred patients to help and support the work we’re doing at Life Rooms centres in Walton and Southport.
The Life Rooms is Mersey Care’s state-of-the-art centre for learning, recovery, health and wellbeing. Last year, its centre in Walton opened its doors after the NHS Trust saved the historic Carnegie building at the former Walton Library in North Liverpool. Following its success, another centre opened in Southport earlier this year.
As a leading mental health trust and one of only seven NHS England Mental Health Global Digital Exemplars, Mersey Care use Elemental’s unique digital technology to transform its referrals process through its Pathways Advisors, who are based at the Life Rooms and help people using the centre to identify help and support on issues including finding employment, housing, managing money and enrolling on Recovery College courses.
The aim of the partnership is to enable more people to engage with the Pathways Programme, provide them with more choice and to free up capacity for the Life Rooms team to help the people that need it.
It will also enable Mersey Care to better monitor and track the progress and outcomes of the referrals it makes to understand the difference that its support is making to people’s lives.
Quality, recovery and wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do, and we are delighted to be working with Elemental to enhance the way that we deliver support through our Pathways Programme, significantly improving the way that we make referrals to non-medical support and crucially, enabling us to monitor and measure the real impact of these interventions.
Michael Crilly, Director of Social Inclusion & Participation at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael spent his early career as an academic before holding a number of pastoral leadership roles across Merseyside. He joined Mersey Care NHS Trust in 2009 as Head of Spiritual and Pastoral Care where he developed the Trust’s on-going work around the relationship between faith and spirituality to mental health recovery and wellbeing. In 2013 Michael took over the leadership of Mersey Care’s flagship service user and carer participation programme, supporting more than 300 independent service users and carers to support co-production at all levels of the organisation. In 2015 Michael was appointed Director of Social Inclusion and Participation at Mersey Care and in 2016 launched the ‘Life Rooms’ in North Liverpool.