NHS England is planning to recruit 1000 link workers for social prescribing in order to help patients live healthier lives through improvements in lifestyle. The new plan expected to be unveiled this week wants to relieve the general practitioner (GP) pressure in dealing with patients.
Social prescribing refers to a method of linking patients in primary care to sources of community support to improve overall health and well-being. It provides GPs with an option to prescribe non-medical suggestions to follow alongside existing treatments. Through social prescribing, patients with a broad range of physical, social and psychological problems have shown significant improvement in their sense of well-being by access to community support.
The 1000 link workers recruited by the NHS will be able to signpost people to community services including ballroom dancing, history groups and art or exercise classes. Officials in the NHS say that this can help in improving people’s wellbeing more than any prescribed medication ever will.
Currently, social prescribing is often carried out by existing by GPs which has strained their capabilities as half of the GP appointments are not directly related to any medical conditions. The link workers will help GPs to help patients more proactively. The link workers won’t need any special qualifications for the job, rather NHS will offer special training to such individuals under the scheme. The trainees will be trained to respond to the patient’s problems with empathy and compassion and also listening skills to help address their issues.
Under the scheme, people with long term conditions like alcohol addiction, smoking or other issues, depression and mental health problems, complex social and emotional disorders will be able to meet a professional specially trained for the purpose. This will offset the pressure on GPs who can focus on patients requiring serious medical intervention.
The plan is to place 1000 link workers across primary care networks by the year 2021. The NHS Long-term plan unveiled by Prime Minister Theresa May last week states that by 2023-24, states that social prescribers will handle 900,000 patient appointments every year. This will be a significant step forward in providing personalized care to patients as envisioned by the NHS long-term plan.
The link workers will aid in providing personalized care by taking into consideration the patients social, personal and financial circumstances which is proven to have a significant impact on health according to many studies. The link workers will work an important link between patients and community groups to improve overall wellbeing.