Patients at five GP practices in West Kent- they have not been named yet- will soon be able to benefit from help with social, emotional or practical needs that can often affect their health.
Involve Kent, in partnership with NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is one of 23 organisations across England that will receive a share of a £4.5 million government fund to test different ways to support people and find out what works best.
Involve Connect for Wellbeing will have specialist staff at the selected GP practices, supported by volunteers, to advise and support patients to get involved in community activities, volunteering, or accessing community services.
They will have access to hundreds of non-clinical services that can help patients in a wide variety of ways – from boosting their mental health to help with meeting people and making friends.
Dr Bob Bowes, Clinical Chairman for NHS West Kent CCG, said: “I am very pleased Involve Kent has been picked to try this innovative new approach to supporting people’s wider social, emotional or practical needs in west Kent.
“With their support, practice staff will be able to use ‘social prescribing’ to help people improve their health and wellbeing. For instance, some people can feel low because they are isolated. Involve Connect for Wellbeing would mean we can link them up with a voluntary service or social club.
“This early help is good for patients as it helps people to do things they enjoy, and puts them in control. In the long run it can mean their health and wellbeing improves, reducing their need for NHS services.”
UK studies have estimated that around 20 per cent of patients consult their GPs for social problems or welfare advice. Without support, negative consequences can build up, such as depression, anxiety and social isolation.
Research shows people using social prescribing schemes tend to use health services less often, with their attendance at GP practices dropping by an average of 28 per cent, at A&E by 24 per cent, and some reduction in hospital appointments too.
Involve Kent Chief Executive Charlotte Osborn-Forde said: “We are delighted with this funding which will enable us to recruit and train Involve Coordinators, who will be based in specific GP practices.
“We will be liaising with community groups, charities and voluntary organisations across west Kent to ensure those who wish to attract new members and users are signed up and listed on Connect for Wellbeing. Look out for future announcements from us and for information about joining the team to deliver this exciting new project.”
The new scheme is expected to launch this autumn.