Age UK Northamptonshire celebrate a year of Social Prescribing Link Workers.

Age UK Northamptonshire have been offering support to people over the age of 50, to enable them to improve their health through non-medical interventions for decades. When NHS England introduced the ‘Universal Personalised Care’ initiative which included the introduction of Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLWs), local NHS colleagues turned to Age UK Northamptonshire for support. It’s been a year since Age UK Northants SPLWs started working in surgeries across the north of the county and the benefits, especially during COVID-19 have been significant.

There are currently five SPLWs from Age UK Northants covering a wide area including towns and rural areas of East Northants, Wellingborough, Kettering, Corby, Rothwell & Desborough. The five SPLWs support 23 surgeries across the county. Age UK Northants were chosen to support the NHS due to their expertise and successful working relationship with the GP Federation, 3Sixty Care Partnership, following four years working together on the Collaborative Care Team contract.

SPLWs give people time, focusing on what matters to them, taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support. SPLWs also support existing community groups to be accessible and sustainable, and help people to start new groups, working collaboratively with local partners.

Social prescribing works for a wide range of people, including people:

  • with one or more long-term conditions,
  • who need support with their mental health,
  • who are lonely or isolated,
  • who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

During COVID-19, SPLWs offered the most vulnerable, contact that they desperately needed. Contact has been primarily over the telephone, with some support now being delivered face-to-face either meeting patients outside, social distancing in a local park or in the patients’ garden or via home visits which are carried out in full PPE.

SPLWs are embedded within the surgery and take referrals from GP’s, Practice Nurses, or any member of the surgery team. They make initial calls, discussing with the patient ‘what matters to me’, setting goals and supporting patients to access local groups and services. Crucially, they build relationships with local services to enable them to support patients at their point of need.

The length of support offered by SPLWs varies, normally working on a six weeks period but this depends on the complexity of the situation. Patients can come back to the service if circumstances change, this could be 6 months from initial intervention and support.

Caroline Gooch, Service Manager, Age UK Northamptonshire “We have been signposting clients to social and voluntary groups for many years and have seen the positive impact on their health and wellbeing. It’s great that our NHS colleagues have also adopted this model and that it’s working so successfully.”

Chris Duff, Chief Executive, Age UK Northamptonshire “We are delighted to be supporting the NHS, especially at a time when pressure on GPs surgeries is at its greatest. Providing our expertise in the area, not just to older people, but those of all ages, is another way in which we are helping the community at large.”

To find out more information about Age UK Northamptonshire’s services, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/northamptonshire or call 01604 611200.