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Reflections to Celebrate Social Prescribing Day

16/03/2021

“Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, and many schemes are focused on improving mental health and physical wellbeing.”  The Kings Fund

GVA’s Community Compass Service – Reflections to Celebrate Social Prescribing Day

In December 2020, GVA’s Community Compass (Compassionate volunteers pointing you to the support services you need) service developed from GVA’s previous Social Prescribing project, ‘Surgery Signposting’.  The original and unique partnership project started with Clinical Commissioning Group funding.  The service was based within the Willow Group, to provide support for patients across all Gosport’s surgeries.  More recently, much needed interim financial support has been provided by Gosport Borough Council and by some of Gosport’s Hampshire County Councillors, to ensure the service continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This free community service is currently available by telephone and is for anyone in Gosport who needs to speak to someone who has the time to listen with compassion, helping them to move forward.  Many are unsure what services are currently available for them to access, as the majority of support services are only available remotely.

So, Community Compass is proving particularly valuable during COVID-19, helping people with anxiety and depression to improve their health and well-being. There are many COVID-19 related issues concerning unemployment and uncertainties too. GVA’s Community Compass volunteers listen and signpost to many local organisations, including those supporting socially isolated people at this time, to GVA’s own Befriending service or more practical services such as Dustbusters and Mend & Tend, Citizens Advice (who provide financial, Universal Credit, housing and energy support), Solent Mind for mental health services or Age Concern Gosport for older persons’ welfare needs. There is also increasing demand by those struggling with latent or current bereavement support needs at this time; whatever the social or welfare issue is, Community Compass can help.

GVA’s Community Compass and its dedicated team of friendly, trained volunteers with lived experience (over 150 years of health expertise) offer free, confidential 40min listening and signposting consultations for those in need. Unlike many services, this support can be provided within a week to those in need. Community Compass works in partnership with Gosport’s Health Connectors and new Health & Wellbeing Coaches too.

Angela Gill, GVA’s Project Manager said:

Now more than ever, GVA’s Community Compass is needed to help local people at one of the most challenging and frightening times in many people’s lives. The social and mental health support needs will be there long after lockdown ends.”

Wider Evidence of Impact of GVA’s Social Prescribing Project

  • Since Nov 15, 3000 volunteer hours supported over 800 people, many of whom would have gone into crisis; for some, this intervention had a life-transforming impact
  • Data indicates that social prescribing reduces GP attendance by 28%
  • The Local Government Association asserts that for every £1 spent on SP, a saving of £6 is made
  • Many referrals during COVID-19 came from Gosport GPs
  • Nationally, 59% of GPs believe that social prescribing reduces pressure on GP time
  • Community Compass volunteers helped to innovatively shape the development of the service
  • The service also has a positive impact on the GVA volunteers’ own health and well-being
  • The service is valued by Gosport’s MP, Mayor, District Councillors, HCC Adults’ Health and Care, Job Centre Plus, Gosport War Memorial Hospital
  • It was highlighted as an exemplar of professional, innovative, community delivered ‘best practice’ at a National Association of Link Workers Regional Conference
  • Also recognised by the Wessex Academic Health Science Network
  • GVA is a proactive member of the Hants & IoW Social Prescribing Network

As a clinician it is hard to know exactly what is available locally, or we don’t have the time to properly discuss these in an appointment. The [volunteers] offer their expertise in this and their valuable time, which is a great way of supporting people to help themselves and really get them to connect with the local community and local services which can sometimes be hard. I really don’t know what we would do without this service now.Adrian Federico, Clinical Practice Pharmacist (The Willow Group, Gosport)

I enjoy trying to point people into the right direction and unravelling the complex needs they’ve got.”  Alex Bone, GVA Community Compass volunteer

“I have never had help before. Thank you so much. Thank you for seeing me.Anonymous client feedback

If project funding is secured beyond June 2021, it is hoped that Community Compass will resume offering face-to-face appointments at Gosport Voluntary Action when safe to do so.

To access the service, either use the simple Community Compass referral form on GVA’s homepage, email Angela Gould on sspgosport@gva.org.uk or text/call Community Compass on 07578 509079 (Mon-Fri 9am-2pm, with voicemail for out of hours).

The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Social Prescribing Network

The Hants & IoW Social Prescribing Network started in 2017 and is co-ordinated by Community First, on behalf of the Hampshire Community & Voluntary Service.  It is also supported by the Hampshire Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups and has over 200 members countywide, who are either interested in or supporting/delivering Social Prescribing and health & well-being countywide.  This holistic approach is proven to make a significant difference.  59% of GPs questioned said that Social Prescribing reduces pressure on their time; this is invaluable at time when Primary Care is under such pressure.

With the advent of NHSE funded Social Prescribers supporting Primary Care Networks and increasing demand for community delivered Social Prescribing projects, the positive impact of Social Prescribing is recognised nationally and celebrated worldwide, such as on Social Prescribing Day!  Across the Hants & IoW Social Prescribing Network, projects will be highlighting the positive impact they are having on their local communities, which is needed so very much at this time.

In 2020, COVID-19 meant the Network needed to remodel to continue to provide its members with information and updates.  The face-to-face meetings were replaced with well-received, topical Webinars that reached many more attendees (the last two had 70+ attendees!).  In 2021, the demand for mental health and bereavement support is growing exponentially.

To find out more about Social Prescribing and to see the variety of fascinating, themed Webinars that have been delivered over the past year, on topics ranging from Tackling Social Isolation and Mental Health to COVID-19 Inequalities in Housing and Poverty, please visit https://www.gva.org.uk/groups/social-prescribing/

Looking forward, the Network intends to re-start some face-to-face meetings in September, with a blend of Webinars and face-to-face meetings in the future.  This will give existing and new members alike an opportunity to share learning and develop new working relationships, to the benefit of the community they serve.

Please note that this article contains photographs taken pre-Covid-19.

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