Social prescribing in the South West receives royal recognition

Posted on July 29

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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have visited St Austell Healthcare, a leading innovator in social prescribing within the South West Academic Health Science Network’s Institute for Social Prescribing.

During their visit the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were hosted by the social prescribing team who work as part of the St Austell Healthcare general practice. In seeing their work first-hand, the royal visitors acknowledged the commitment of the team in their sensitive support of local people in and around St Austell during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the emergence of COVID-19, social prescribing link workers at St Austell Healthcare swiftly shifted their focus in partnership with local organisations, helping to redirect teams of trained local volunteers to support elderly and other vulnerable people in the community.

As part of ensuring the continued provision of community-wide health information, advice and activities, St Austell Healthcare relaunched their mobile app, Help at Hand, three days after the UK Government lockdown in late March. With local services shutting their doors, this digital provision ensured that members of the community could access essential support wherever they were.

St Austell is one of five ‘test beds’ rapidly sharing learning and insight on their work in the community through our Institute for Social Prescribing. We launched the Institute in 2019 to bring together researchers, policy makers and social prescribing practitioners to spread innovative practice in social prescribing.

Michael Dixon, NHS England’s Clinical Champion for Social Prescribing and Chair of the Institute for Social Prescribing with the South West Academic Science Network said:

“It is a tremendous credit to the work of St Austell Healthcare and social prescribing link workers across the South West that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have chosen to honour their work today.

General practitioners across the country have increasingly recognised the value of social prescribing to improve health and wellbeing of their patients. Their collective and practical dedication has been a lifeline for many communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A full tour of the facilities and meetings with social prescribing partners at St Austell Healthcare today was not possible due to social distancing measures in place. However, a small number of the team were able to provide Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall with a number of examples of how social prescribing is an effective part of wider primary care within the St Austell community.

Dr Stewart Smith, GP partner at St Austell Healthcare, said:

“The visit by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall is fantastic recognition of the efforts made by social prescribing link workers at the practice and other local organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We look forward to continuing our efforts to grow and develop the ways that we as a GP surgery further integrate activities within the community to support health and wellbeing.”

Using their experience over the last few months, St Austell Healthcare and the other four test bed teams within the Institute for Social Prescribing are proactively exchanging their learning. These exchanges are providing essential insight into how community activities integrate within wider health and care systems in the South West, including how they can help tackle health inequalities, and continue to support vulnerable people in the South West during COVID-19.

Referring patients to link workers who can connect them to community services, an approach known as social prescribing, can help to boost patient health and wellbeing better than clinical treatments can, while also reducing demand on GPs and other public health services. The Institute for Social Prescribing, hosted by the South West Academic Health Science Network, recognises and celebrates excellence in a community approach to care.

An interim insight report on the wider work of the Institute for Social Prescribing during the initial phase of COVID-19, including highlights from all five test bed sites, can be found here.

You can download a case study about the social prescribing work of St Austell Healthcare in response to COVID-19 here.