The NHS is highlighting the wide range of different roles now available at GP practices in the Black Country, including social prescribing.

Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs. It enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services to support their health and wellbeing.

Your GP practice may refer you to a social prescribing link worker who can connect you with local community organisations including bereavement groups, dementia cafes, art classes, debt management services, physical activity groups and fitness classes.

Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with one or more long-term conditions, those who need support with their mental health, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.

Matt Brookes, a Social Prescribing Link Worker for Brierley Hill and Amblecote Primary Care Network, said: “Social prescribing link workers support people who may be bereaved or have lost a job or lost a sense of confidence. They may be struggling with an illness, having difficultly just finding their way in life or someone who is up against the pressures of life and doesn’t know how to cope.

“We work with the patient and together we find a way forward and identify steps to help process their lives and the way they work. It’s all patient led, and they aren’t told what to do. One of the greatest gifts I give to people is to say, it is ok to feel this way, you aren’t going mad or crazy. And the sense of peace that comes over them is great.

“The role is unique because it isn’t medicine led. It’s a holistic approach which looks at mind, body, and spirit, without trying to prescribe drugs. It encourages patients to become more directly involved in their care planning and to take more control of their own health."

One of Matt’s patients, who has benefited from the social prescribing scheme, said: “My problem came about in January last year where I became so stressed with work it started to make me feel unwell and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I initially went to see my GP for a sick note, and they thought it would be a good idea to have a chat with Matt.

“I remember saying to the doctor at the time that I thought it was a waste of time and I didn’t think I needed that kind of help. I wasn’t suicidal, I had just put too many hours in at work and couldn’t cope.

“I had my first appointment with Matt and he seemed understanding and approachable, and he understood where I was coming from straight away. I found him really easy to talk to, he gave unbiased advice and I just felt like he was on my side. He was a crutch and really supported me during a really difficult time in my life which was certainly needed.

“I saw him monthly until October which is when we both came to the natural conclusion that I didn’t need to see him anymore. He gave me the strength to carry on and continue improving myself on my own. The appointments were never a requirement, and it was always my choice how often I wanted to see him, so it was all in my hands.

“I wasn’t aware that his role even existed so wasn’t sure what to expect, but I'm so glad I went ahead with the appointments. If someone is recommended to see a social prescriber, I'd say go for it. Just go with an open mind and give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose.”

You can also watch a video on social prescribing on YouTube here.

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