The wider support available for patients in primary care is being celebrated as part of National Link Workers Day on October 8th.
Social prescribers, link workers, care co-ordinators, navigators and other support workers are now employed in GP Practices to help support patients who may have needs which aren’t primarily medical.
Gwyn Lishman is an occupational therapist by trade and now runs the Copeland Wellness Service - all practices in the area work together through this service. He said: “Lots of people might be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, losing sleep and it is natural that they might look to their GP for help.
“But the GP often isn’t best placed to help with issues that aren’t primarily medical and by referring them to one of our team, we can often make sure they get much more practical help that can really make a difference.
“Some people may feel as if they are being bumped around the system if they aren’t seeing a GP, but the reality is we can usually see them much more quickly and can often provide much more effective help.”
This could be linking people to other services such as debt advice, or family support or to local groups and activities in their neighbourhood.
Lindsey Kerr is the social prescribing and wellbeing service co-ordinator for Carlisle Network Primary Care Network. He said: “One of the biggest issues we’ve seen over the last 18 months has been around loneliness and isolation. During covid people haven’t been able to see friends and family in the way they were used to, and now that life is opening up again many people are very nervous or have simply lost the habits they’ve had.
“Being lonely can have a huge impact on your health and can feel pretty miserable, by linking people into groups in their neighbourhood, or into clubs or sessions that are happening nearby we can make a big difference to how people feel.
“Not every problem is medical and we can spend time listening to people and make sure we get to the root of the problem, and of course if they do need to see a doctor or a nurse we can refer them back in.
“Seeing a social prescriber or a link worker can be really effective.”
You can contact a wellness link worker by asking your practice reception.
There's a great video below with more informaton about social prescribing: