Social prescribing GP service a success, Barking and Dagenham Council says

Damien Cole from Community Solutions explains the scheme. Picture: LBBD

Damien Cole from Community Solutions explains the scheme. Picture: LBBD - Credit: Archant

A scheme helping GPs tackle the root causes of ill health has been hailed a success following a trial.

Three surgeries in Barking and Dagenham took part in the six month pilot which saw doctors refer 71 people to council workers for help with difficulties which weren't medical, but considered as having an impact on physical health.

Known as social prescribing, the range of issues covered by the scheme included debt challenges, employment difficulties, weight problems and further education worries.

Cllr Maureen Worby, speaking at a town hall health scrutiny committee meeting on January 6, said: "The model we've developed here is really exciting."

She added that GPs elsewhere are having to employ their own staff to do the same work, but Barking and Dagenham's GPs trust in the council's offer and are directly investing money in its service.

"The GPs are really excited about the opportunity and we're going to go out and shout about this. Barking and Dagenham, again, is at the forefront, doing something a little bit different," Cllr Worby said.

Damien Cole, from the local authority's problem solving arm, Community Solutions - which is behind the pilot - explained the council is now pitching the service to more GPs.

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He added the scheme is to be broadened to cover a range of issues including domestic abuse, housing, loneliness and substance misuse.

There are now plans to look into getting the voluntary sector, pharmacies, school nurses and hospitals involved.

The aim is to tackle the root causes of issues to ease pressure on surgeries where many patients seek help for non-medical issues.

Primary care networks - groupings of surgeries, hospitals and various health related agencies - are funding the scheme, meaning there is no need for the council to dip into its general fund pot of money.

The meeting heard the council intends social prescribing referrals not just to come from GPs, but to be community based and for people to refer themselves as well.

Cllr Paul Robinson, welcoming the scheme, said: "It's a really good idea. There's more to healthcare than just treating a disease.

"There's so much more in the background about how people live."