Social prescribing – The Alvanley Way

In March 2017, Practice Manager Kay Keane wanted to work with the community to build additional resilience and find out what mattered to them.

First sitting in the waiting room and finding that the majority of patients didn’t lift their eyes from Facebook, she decided that this should be the first way to connect with them. From this a cohort of patients who shared stories and a real desire to give something back for everything that the NHS; and in particular the Alvanley GP’s appeared.

Kay wanted to capture this and heard about the work that Altogether Better did in creating Collaborative Practices with the help of Practice Health Champion Volunteers. Adverts went out, texts were sent and conversations conducted and a group of volunteers made up of 18 patients from the Alvanley Family Practice in Stockport were recruited. The volunteers have since been working together to improve the health and wellbeing of people living within the local community, tackling issues such as social isolation and unhealthy lifestyles. From the beginning their focus was on the community not the patients of the practice, as Kay says “we want it to be a better place to live and work so that means we are improving things for our staff and their families too regardless of where their GP is.”

The group organises a range of regular events such as ‘The Wednesday Wander” – a mile walk from the practice each Wednesday lunch time, singalong sessions, coffee and conversations and growing of vegetables at a local allotment site donated by the local authority.

Practice Manager Kay Keane said “when we did our initial audit of patients attending GP appointments we saw that about 30% were visiting the surgery for matters relating to wellbeing rather than medicine. We started asking patients when booking appointments to describe the nature of their visit. Doing this made it possible for us to signpost patients to alternative services rather than seeing a GP. Social prescribing and having conversations with patients about what matters to them has enabled the practice to reduce its GP workload from 15 to 12 patients per session as well as benefiting the local community and staff morale”.

The practice also offers patients a ‘Wellbeing Prescription’ where patients can tick the activities that might appeal to them, this is then handed (with consent) to the volunteers who contact the individuals with details of the activities and a promise to help them to attend – this might be as simple as arrange to meet them and attend with them the first week, or introducing them to a buddy that is also new to the event. The Wellbeing Prescriptions are kept at the practice reception desk, in the waiting room and in each GPs consulting room as well as in the pockets and handbags of the volunteers so that they can signpost at any time.

Next year, the group hopes to extend their activities to include a shared care scheme for local veterans and plans to build a shelter / shed at the allotment site suitable to cook the vegetables that they grow.

All activities are led or sourced by the practice health champions who donate between 2 and 20 hours a week each to support the patients and local community.

For more information on how Social Prescribing and becoming community focussed could help your practice, visit the Altogether Better website or take a look at the Facebook page and the Champions own page