Similar, smaller projects have run in Bradford for several years but these have been GP practice-based initiatives, or schemes run by the voluntary and community sector (VCS) – this is the first time the CCGs have invested in a Bradford-wide service.
Patients registered with many GP practices in Bradford are eligible to access the free service via a referral from a health professional such as their GP. Over 26 practices expressed an interest to take part in the scheme which started this month and runs for a year.
A ‘community connector’ from the team will work with each patient to find local support that meets their needs: from walking groups and dance classes, to healthy cooking classes and gardening groups, social groups for older people and debt, domestic violence and housing advice.
The aim of the service is to help and support patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, prevent illness or manage existing health problems and long-term conditions. The service will offer an opportunity to tackle the wider issues that can impact on health and wellbeing in a way that cannot always be solved through traditional medical routes alone.
Dr Taz Aldawoud, Bradford Districts CCG clinical board member and the CCGs’ lead GP for self-care, said: “There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can empower individuals to improve their health and wellbeing and social welfare by connecting them to non-medical and community support services. It has the potential to reduce the financial burden on the NHS and particularly on primary care.
“This service helps us to access support in our local communities much easier, and in a coordinated way that will become part of each patient’s overall care. It gives GPs and nurses one referral point where someone can get help with non-medical issues, so they can enjoy a better quality of life.”
Social isolation is often said to be one of the major causes of ill health: social prescribing reduces this burden and can in turn help to reduce the stress on the NHS.
Helen Parsons, Community Connector coordinator at HALE, said: “The new Community Connector project provides the opportunity for HALE to work in partnership with GP practices across Bradford. It's fantastic that we will be supporting people who will benefit from using wider community resources.
“Practices will also benefit from seeing fewer patients with minor ailments, loneliness or other queries that the Community Connector team can help with instead.”
The partners involved in the project include: Carers Resource, Thornbury Centre, Healthy Lifestyles, Thorpe Edge Advice Centre and Equality for All. Patients who access the service will be offered up to six sessions at an appropriate service and given support to continue to make long-term changes in their lives.