In a recent blog post we discussed Social Prescribing and its effects on primary care. Social Prescribing is when GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals refer patients to a link worker, which provides them with a face-to-face conversation during which they can learn about ways to improve their health and wellbeing. Social Prescribing is also fast becoming the best way to support patients with mental health issues.

With Grey Bear being based in Oxford, we wanted to find out about the impact that Social Prescribing projects are having in our local area.

Oxfordshire Mind is a charity dedicated to helping people with mental health challenges by offering them free and confidential advice and support. Their Social Prescribing project, the Primary Care Wellbeing Project, is just over a year old now and has helped over 1,600 people to date. They have been working with over 30 local GP practices by offering one-to-one sessions with patients who may be suffering from a range of health and wellbeing issues.

Once referred by their GP, the patient will have an initial 45-minute session, followed by up to five 30-minute sessions where the Oxfordshire Mind Wellbeing Workers listen, encourage and enable patients to link in with existing support services, use the support available in their local community, and develop tools to increase their ability to manage their own wellbeing.

The Primary Care Wellbeing Project Manager, Alex Hills, said, “we provide space for patients to talk about the main difficulties they have, what their goals are and what really matters to them. We then work alongside patients, encouraging them to pursue positive changes.

The feedback we have received has been fantastic. Patients feel like they can really open up to our workers in the sessions. We hold all sessions in the GP surgery, so there is a sense of familiarity with the surroundings which I think patients respond well too. The sessions are also over 30 minutes long, as opposed to a 10-minute GP appointment, meaning they have time to really talk about the issues they may be struggling with.”

Due to the success of the initiative funding from Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has been extended to March 2020, with the ambition to help more patients take control of their own health, and to reduce the burden placed on the local GP service.

Demands on primary care for mental health support are increasing. In a survey of more than 1000 GPs published by Mind (2018), GPs said that two out of five (40%) of their appointments involve mental health and two thirds of GPs said that, over the previous 12 months, the proportion of patients requiring support for their mental health increased. With increased pressures and workloads for GPs, and an increase of patients with mental health issues, Social Prescribing projects like Oxfordshire Mind’s are fantastic at helping everybody in primary care get better service.

To find out more about the Primary Care Wellbeing Project visit the Oxfordshire Mind website here.

Oxfordshire Mind

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