Celebrating social prescribing across Hertfordshire and west Essex

Published: 12 March 2024

Celebrating social prescribing day

NHS leaders in Hertfordshire and west Essex are using national social prescribing day on 14 March to thank the team of 85 social prescribing link workers in across our system.

They help over 20,000 people in our area each year, with issues ranging from loneliness to money worries.

A social prescriber will work with someone who has been referred or asked for help themselves. As well as the 85 social prescriber posts funded by NHSE based in GP practices, who between them help about 21,000 people a year, there are a range of other social prescribing roles in hospitals and in the community, as well as specialist roles supporting Ukrainians, veterans, people with cancer, and people with sensory impairment. Some of these posts are funded by NHS England, while others are funded by the ICB, Hertfordshire County Council, Essex County Council  and Macmillan.

The social prescriber link workers spend between two to three hours with each client depending on need. They help people understand and feel part of any medical treatment, to help combat issues such as loneliness, stress or money problems. Some people are referred by their doctor, others by organisations like HertsHelp www.hertshelp.net  or the Essex Wellbeing Service www.essexwellbeingservice.co.uk, while others refer themselves. 

Social prescribing started in Hertfordshire and west Essex in 2014, one of the first parts of the country to roll out the service. A group of GP practices in Stort Valley won a national award last year for a new service to support children and young people with autism (including while they were waiting for formal services), using social prescribing. 

Dr Jane Halpin, CEO of the Hertfordshire and west Essex NHS Integrated Care Board, said: “Many of our health problems can’t be solved by medicine alone. Social prescribers help people address problems in their own way, alongside other NHS care, and the end result is better physical and mental health. This prevents unnecessary hospital admissions and gives people the treatment that is right for them. On social prescribing day, we thank all of our link workers, who have helped tens of thousands of people in recent years.”

 

Ashlee Manning is a deputy service manager with Herts Help Hospital and Community Navigation Service. Although she works with all groups of people, she has a particular focus on former military personnel, after serving in the armed forces herself. She said: “People come to us with all sorts of problems, and the first thing we do is spend time with them to unearth what the real issues are. 

“Everything is based on what the client needs, which isn’t always what they’ve been told their problem is. Then we help connect them with the services they need, which might be housing, or a social club, or a group that meets for exercise. We work with people for as long as they need.”

Ashlee talks about one client who was struggling to find housing. The client was a veteran, and after taking time to talk it became clear that the issue was more to do with anxiety stemming from their time in the armed forces, which made it hard to deal with applications. Ashlee was able to help with the paperwork, assist with finding housing and a grant to provide basic furnishing, and then therapy to help address the anxiety. The client later wrote: “Thank you again for everything you have done. You have really changed my life and I didn’t know people like you still existed.”