The Healthy Living Centre Alliance in Northern Ireland (HLCA) and Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing (SCHW) are alliances of community led health and wellbeing improvement organisations. Staff from both organisations have developed strong links over the past few years. Both organisations have recently undertaken community led pilot programmes in social prescribing in 2 locations in Northern Ireland and in 5 locations in Scotland. This common agenda brought the two organisations together to consider how the lessons learned from the pilot programmes could be shared and applied across a wider range of communities in both regions.
The evaluations of the programmes in each country highlighted they had a very positive impact on the individuals engaged in the community based health improvement pathways. The programmes operated in real partnerships with a range of agencies, including GP practices that referred individuals to the projects with social prescriptions. It was obvious to all those engaged in the projects that they had the potential to address many of the issues facing health and social care services.
SCHW and the HLCA are made up of well established community led health and wellbeing improvement organisations, embedded in some of the most disadvantaged areas in both countries. They are anchor organisations, respected and trusted in their communities. They are in a unique position to not only develop strong partnerships with GP practices and other local organisations and care services but also to provide and deliver a wide range of activities and support to respond to individual needs identified in a social prescription and social outcomes in personal health pathways.
“SCHW’s Social Prescribing Project (SPP) proposal and Link Workers”
Where the SPP operates in communities with link workers the SPP worker and the link workers would need to work well together for the benefit of the people in the community. It will be important to have close liaison to avoid duplication and to avoid confusion among GPs, other health professionals and community organisations. Joint working arrangements would need to be agreed and these should be communicated to GPs served by link workers.
GPs have expressed the need for SP procedures and processes which give them minimal or no additional work. Where a link worker is established then the focus for the SPP worker should be on agreeing joint working arrangements and also focusing on contacts/referral pathways with other health professionals in the community
SPP workers would be part of an established health and wellbeing improvement organisation. The strengths of this are in terms of:
These strengths could also work in arrangements with link workers in jointly working with people to produce the most effective health and wellbeing pathway and being able to ensure the pathway is effective
The SPP worker could make use of the existing monitoring and evaluation strategies used by the organisations and operated for specific projects and activities
The SPP worker would also be part of a wide network of SPP organisations which will act as a source of support, sharing of expertise and experience, problem solving and mutual support
Working with link workers is an opportunity that should be approached very positively because there are gains for both the SPP worker, the link worker and most importantly for the people in the local community. It should be considered as an opportunity to pool resources to deliver the most effective SP programme.
SCHW Consortium Model
SCHW has developed a consortium model to support groups of SCHW organisations to work closely together, to hare expertise and experience and to apply for joint funding. To date the model has successfully attracted over £350,000 into SCHW organisations and around 25% of SCHW organisations have been involved in consortium groups. A leaflet on the model has been produced and can be accessed here. SCHW Consortium Model
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