Social prescribing helps to change lives in Redbridge

14 March 2019

People in Redbridge are being supported to lead healthier lives, thanks to closer connections between the NHS, local council and charitable and voluntary sector. 

Under the borough’s social prescribing service, GPs are able to refer patients for non-medical support alongside existing treatments to improve their health and wellbeing. 

This ensures that patients across Redbridge are supported to access local services – from advice on getting active, eating healthily and losing weight and support in dealing with anxiety, to help with housing and financial issues or employment concerns. Working in this way, more people are being empowered to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing, meaning less time seeing the GP or waiting for hospital appointments. 

To mark International Social Prescribing Day today (Thursday, 14 March), partner organisations in Redbridge are working together to highlight the positive benefits of this approach. 

In Redbridge, the social prescribing service is a joint initiative involving RedbridgeCVS, Redbridge Council and NHS Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). 

GPs refer patients who are affected by low level mental health, social isolation or type 2 diabetes to RedbridgeCVS, and its staff assign them to a "Health and Wellbeing Buddy". 

The buddy then supports the patient on a one-to-one basis by helping them to access a range of non-medical, community-based services, groups and social activities with the aim of reducing social isolation, improving mental health and promoting healthy lifestyles. This can help people address underlying issues and find ongoing support in their local community. 

The Health and Wellbeing Buddies are employed and trained by RedbridgeCVS. They are all trained in safeguarding adults, behaviour change, motivational interviewing, and communication skills, as well as having access to the database of local services offered by the community, voluntary and statutory sector. All the buddies have also undergone DBS checks.  

Dr Anil Mehta, a local GP and Chair of Redbridge CCG, said: 

“As well as treating and supporting to people to improve their physical health, as GPs we are very aware that other issues, such as loneliness and isolation or problems with money or housing, can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. 

“Social prescribing tackles these issues head on by connecting people to the resources that exist all around them – places where they can make friends, get expert help, or both. “Enabling people to access this help and take greater control of their own health not only improves their quality of life; it also helps us reduce pressure on frontline NHS services.” 

Cllr Mark Santos, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care, Mental Health and the Ageing at Redbridge Council, said: “It is important that today and every day residents are aware that they can access help and advice for their wellbeing. 

“We aim to improve the health of all residents and reduce health inequalities across the borough. Social prescribing approach helps us provide that link between medical and social support, impacting positively on a person’s life.” 

The social prescribing service in Redbridge was formally launched in October 2017 within nine GP practices in the Fairlop area. RedbridgeCVS later secured government funding for four years, with match-funding provided by Redbridge CCG and Redbridge Council. This allowed the service to be expanded to all 42 GP in Redbridge from October last year. 

Ross Diamond, Chief Executive Officer, RedbridgeCVS, said: 

“Since the launch of our social prescribing scheme in October 2017, we have received over 200 referrals from GPs. Feedback from our clients and referring GPs, as well as partner organisations to whom we refer our clients, encourages us to go the extra mile to make a difference in their lives.” 

For more information on the social prescribing service in Redbridge, speak to your GP practice or visit: https://www.redbridgecvs.net/content/expansion-redbridge-social-prescribing-service