‘Social Prescribing’ tackling social isolation in South Leeds

Connect for Health, a local NHS-funded service to improve health and wellbeing for people living in South and East Leeds, has found that social isolation is proving to be the biggest factor affecting health and wellbeing – affecting over one third (37%) of the people the service has worked with in the two months since it was set up.

discussionThe findings were revealed on Monday (25 January 2016) at a Connect for Health community event in Beeston, attended by more than 80 health and social care professionals and third sector organisations working in the South and East of the city.

Funded by NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group, Connect for Health aims to help and support patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, prevent illness or manage existing health problems and long term conditions in a way that cannot always be solved through traditional medical routes alone. Services of this type are sometimes called ‘social prescribing’ and are an emerging field in healthcare. Similar schemes in West Leeds, Rotherham and Bradford have shown considerable benefits for patients.

Since it launched at the end November, the Connect for Health service has so far helped around sixty people in South and East Leeds, of all ages, with a diverse range of needs affecting both their mental and physical health, from loneliness, to debt and housing problems, alcohol dependency. This is done by helping people to access the wide range of community groups and activity in the area, from walking groups and befriending services, to healthy cooking or creative classes, to debt advice.

Cllr TruswellAttendees at the event heard from Councillor Paul Truswell, Councillor for the Middleton Ward and chair of the Chair of the Leeds South and East Health and Wellbeing Group, who gave his support to the scheme and said it was: “A way of meeting people’s often varied and complex needs, and treating them as individuals – not simply pigeon-holing them as patients, service users, tenants, clients, customers, or victims.”

The Councillor’s support was echoed by consultant psychiatrist Dr David Yeomans, from Leeds & York Partnerships NHS Trust, who used case studies to explain how a combination of health problems and personal circumstances can often become interlinked, with one influencing the other negatively. He suggested that sometimes a fresh perspective and non-medical approach can have a bigger positive impact for patients than medication alone.

Lucy Hancock, Connect for Health Manager said: “We are really keen to spread the word about how we can help people in South and East Leeds. There are so many great community groups and organisations in our local area, and our job is to make it really easy for people to find support that’s right for them. Most cases so far have come via a referral from their GP, but any professional can refer someone they are working with, and people can refer themselves or a loved one to us. I would urge anyone who feels they are struggling a bit, either with something that’s causing them to feel worried or low, is living with a long-term condition, or simply wants to lead a healthier life, to get in touch and see if we can help.”

All patients registered with a GP practice in Leeds South and East are eligible to access the free service. More details can be found at www.connectforhealthleeds.org.uk, or calling (0113) 387 6380. Or speak to your GP.