To answer the questions I asked myself in my previous blog ‘First Steps‘, I started by reading… particularly the work by Jo Cox on combating loneliness. I found growing momentum behind the consideration that loneliness is a growing health epidemic and I was shocked and determined to do something when I learnt social isolation could be associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
I met with some charitable organisations and social enterprises locally. I am very grateful for the time and contacts they gave me. Artytime in particular was useful because the differences between a social enterprise, charitable organisation and community interest company was explained. I was also given a taster of the world of pitching concepts, funding, starting and evolving community projects and remaining relevant.
I wanted to know more about services for the elderly so I went to meet the Croydon Health Visitor For Older People service. Being a Health Visitor for children 0-5, I was interested in what Health Visiting at the other end of the spectrum looked like. I could not be more thankful for the time I spent here. It was pivotal because above all this taught me just how important I find holistic care. So many services target a part of a person, but the HVOP aim to bridge the gap between health and social care by considering the individual as a whole, not one condition, diagnosis or limb. They also work tirelessly to keep a simple referral criteria so that an elderly person who isn’t coping but does not fit the criteria for other services, is seen rather than left to decline until they trigger need for acute services. We had a lot of discussion about the battle to keep referral criteria simple and open, in an age of increasing targets, and we discussed at length how to measure a preventative service which runs the risk of being considered a luxury in austerity.
It was at this point that I read the 84 page document Making sense of Social Prescribing by University of Westminster from cover to cover, with ease, and realised I was on to something I was really passionate about. I am most excited because I can see sustainability. For me; (social prescribing is an area I would love to specialise within and become an expert in), for patients; (what could be better than enabling people to engage with what matters to them, and better their own health in the process?) and for the future of the NHS (by building community capacity and resilience we enable people to take control of their own health and free up NHS services for those that need it).
Social prescribing incorporates a lot of my skills, experience and interests. Where else can you combine experience from A and E and triage, interpersonal care and communication from working with children with complex needs, public health education from a degree in public health, paediatrics, Looked After Children , voluntary work with Crisis at Christmas, knowledge and interests in Community Fridge (Frome), the Foodbank and Parkrun, and there be a chance I can draw upon my diploma in Tropical Nursing when considering community engagement?
I realised that I want to keep within my background as a health professional rather than set up a community enterprise/charity/start up which is something I have no clue about. There are plenty of wonderful charities locally. I want to use my experience knowledge and interests to get social prescribing embedded within services locally and get people accessing the voluntary sector.
Probably in the wrong order, I contacted local GPs and asked if they knew about social prescribing and if I could be involved with social prescribing in their surgeries. I liaised with my local CCG and found out social prescribing already exists in the area. At this point I could have called it quits and aspired to be a lady that lunches (see previous blog)
However, No, thats not me. Social prescribing is complex because health is complex and constantly evolving. Whilst some steps have been taken locally there is so much more work to be done and so the #socialprescribingschemedream started.