We’ve been awarded £821,000 by NHS Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group to provide social prescribing in Barnsley over the next three years.
It is estimated around a fifth of visits to a GP are linked to problems in people’s lives such as loneliness, debt, housing issues, work, relationships and unemployment.
The new scheme will help support people who go to see their GP often with social, emotional or practical needs, where a prescription for medication often doesn’t help.
The scheme, called My Best Life, will start from April 2017 and will be similar to our Doncaster Social Prescribing scheme which continues to go from strength-to-strength.
GPs will be able to put people who have non-medical need in touch with someone from My Best Life team who will talk to them and find out what help or support they need; from money worries and relationship difficulties, to counselling and social groups to tackle loneliness and isolation.
The type of support will vary widely depending on the individual’s needs – from putting people in touch with the local fishing club to getting advice on managing debt.
The two major benefits for people referred to the My Best Life service will be an improvement in their health, wellbeing and quality of life and a reduction in social isolation, exclusion and loneliness. With a special focus on improving mental health and wellbeing, the scheme hopes to enable people to manage their own health, improve social networks and develop their self-confidence.
Dr Nick Balac, local GP and chair of NHS Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Good health and wellbeing is about much more than doctors and medicines. Helping people overcome loneliness and debt for example can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health.
“This scheme will create a different type of conversation when you see your GP or nurse that allows both medical and social elements to be taken into account. If you’re just treating medical issue then you’re often not getting to the root of the problem.”
“The main benefits of this type of service are that it creates a connection between family doctors and nurses and the rest of the wellbeing community services and groups across the town. It adds to the range of support and advice we can offer as a GP.
“We know from other areas that this type of support has the potential to reduce admissions to hospital and reduce the number of GP visits people need to make, but most importantly, to improve the health and wellbeing of the participants.
“There are some really good examples of this type of service on a smaller scale in Barnsley, and I’m really pleased to see that it will now be available in all GP practices and across the borough.”
Phil Parkes, Area Lead at South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: “We’re really looking forward to working with the CCG and other organisations across the area to bring a service like this to Barnsley.
“We know from running our service in Doncaster that this sort of support makes a huge difference. Over 80% of the people we worked with in Doncaster felt more able to manage their health, and felt less isolated and lonely.
“We also saw a 68% drop in repeat visits to GP’s, so we’re confident that we can make a similar impact in Barnsley.”
When the scheme is up and running in April, My Best Life will also be looking for volunteers to help increase the variety and quality of support available to people in Barnsley. You could get involved providing follow on support, sharing your experiences with others or even by setting up groups for carers or people with specific conditions.