Blandford Group Practice Social Prescribers, Vicky Russell-Neal and Sara Stringer believe that social prescribing can make all people’s lives better. They tell the story of how social prescribing helped a grieving man who came to them for support.

“We had a patient, an older gentleman, who lost his wife, no family, and he was absolutely devastated. We were able to signpost him to the bereavement support service to start with, and they were really helpful.

“We were actually able to go with him to a café group meeting that he really wanted to go to. He’s now joined the men’s shed and is out and about meeting new people. It’s made a huge difference to him.”

To mark social prescribing day on Thursday 9 March, NHS Dorset will be sharing more social prescribing stories, like this one, from GP practices across the whole of the county.

“The role of a social prescriber is to facilitate ‘What Matters to You’ conversations,” said Sarah McNulty, Lead Social Prescriber at Jurassic Coast PCN. “We listen and support that person to make changes in their lives and connections in the area, such as new activities, that might boost their wellbeing. Activities could be singing, dancing, arts and crafts, gardening, or walking.”

According to the British Journal of General Practice, it is thought that around 20% of patients go to see their GP for social issues, and for these people social prescribing might be a better option.

North Dorset GP and Deputy Chair of the Dorset General Practice Alliance Dr Simone Yule, commends the work of the social prescribing team: “Social prescribing is all about listening to what matters to the individual or family and making the local connections that will support identified needs. It can make a huge difference to people’s lives, especially for those who are vulnerable or have become socially isolated which has been a major challenge for many throughout and beyond Covid 19.

“We have a fantastic team in the Blackmore Vale Partnership who have time to listen, advise, and guide patients, improving their health and well-being in a way that is personalised and actually led by them.”

Jennifer Churcher, who work as part of this North Dorset team as a trained mental health first aid champion, domestic abuse advisor and social prescriber, agrees with this.

“Social prescribing and personalised care in general is a huge leap forward in terms of the way people use primary care. In fact, it has been identified that there are 28% fewer GP consultations for people receiving social prescribing support. We are building new relationships between people, professionals and voluntary services, giving people a voice and a choice about what matters to them.

“For many people their socio and economic needs have significant impact upon their physical health and wellbeing, and we are there to help bridge the gap, taking pressure off of the clinical team.”

Children and young people are benefitting from social prescribing too. In West Dorset the are team basing themselves in schools, taking referrals from children and young people’s mental health services as well as from GPs. Dr Luke Skellern, GP Partner at the Ammonite Health Partnership said: “It’s fantastic to have this additional service to offer young people who are worried about aspects of their life or wellbeing. As a GP it is great to know that we can offer ongoing support for that child or young person, and for their family.”

Dr Paul Johnson, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Dorset said: “The health and care sector continues to be under huge pressure, with demand remaining incredibly high. So, it is great to hear about the fantastic work going on in this area of primary care, that benefits both the patient and general practice. Thank you to all the social prescribing staff out there in Dorset. ”

To find out more about social prescribing in your area, check your GP practice website or ask at your surgery.

For the full story from Blandford Group Practice Social Prescribers, Vicky Russell-Neal and Sara Stringer, see the video here.