48.1. Louise Hardwick, Head of Partnerships for CCG Ipswich and Suffolk, provided a presentation on ‘Connect for Health’ which was a new programme designed for social prescribing. Social prescribing was a means of referring people to a range of local non-clinical services and support and a service which recognised that people’s health and wellbeing was determined by a number of factors such as economic and environmental and provided healthcare professionals with another option for their patients.
48.2. Social prescribing allowed individuals to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing but with support from a Link Worker who could refer them to different, more relevant services within the community (often provided through local charities, organisations and voluntary groups). This could involve exercise, crafts, music and other activities to alleviate isolation and loneliness. All GP practices within Ipswich had a link worker employed and it was estimated that nearly 40% of appointments made with a GP/nurse were for non-clinical reasons, for which social prescribing would be more relevant for these types of needs.
48.3. £250,000 had been invested into the service in Ipswich and it was hoped that this would ensure that more support could be provided to both patients and the NHS Health Professionals and would strengthen individual resilience. It was also expected to be particularly helpful for those with long-term conditions such as low level anxiety/depression. Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG had joined alongside alliance partners (such as Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council etc.) to put the service together and link workers had started to consider what community groups were available and what help they could offer.
48.4. At present time, Link Workers (also known as Community Connectors) would be based within GP practices however, it was hoped that this would later be broadened. The contract currently would run until March 2021 and could be accessed by anyone over 18, was a free/confidential service and for people with multiple non-medical needs.
48.5. Currently, referrals would be made through the GP practice however, this would soon open up to include self referral (where an appointment could be made over the phone). Once an appointment had been made through the GP reception (following a referral from a GP/nurse) an appointment would be made with a Link Worker for up to 45 minutes where a discussion could be held with the individual about what help and support could be accessed. This could include assisting people to services and acting as a “hand holder”. Current evidence suggested that social prescribing could reduce the burden on primary and secondary care however, this was limited due to the service being new.
48.6. In response to a question, Ms Hardwick confirmed that the full £250,000 had been invested in Ipswich as this had been identified as their main priority area and would cover the service for a year. Further funding had been agreed by the CCG Board to fund the service between June 2020 and March 2021.
48.7. Ms Hardwick confirmed that monitoring of the service would be undertaken and this would consider the success of the service and also how long referrals took. It was suggested that after a year, the statistics and feedback sought from this monitoring could be presented to the North West Area Committee.