• Social prescribing and community transport – what are the links?

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    • Social prescribing and community transport – what are the links?
    • by Anneessa Mahmood
      Director of Member Services

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    As a newcomer to community transport, one of the most impressive qualities about our sector is how anyone involved in running community transport services view the people using those services as a whole individual. My first experience of this was visiting a CTA member just before the school term started. Volunteer drivers had come into the base to pick up a list of young people they’d be transporting to and from school using accessible equipment, ensuring that they took the time to meet the children, their parents and carers, show them the minibus and provide reassurance that the first trip to school of the New Year would go smoothly. As well as just being focused on getting them from A to B, the drivers had thought “what would make this child and their parent/carer feel confident and excited about their first day at school?” This is a ‘whole person’ approach to service delivery. It’s recognising that emotional, psychical and economic factors are all important when providing these sorts of services, and its a level of care that is consistent across the community transport sector.  

    In a similar way, social prescribing is a way of looking at the ‘whole person’ when supporting people to stay healthy and well. It’s an approach to help people get the support they need by recognising that people’s health and wellbeing is determined by a range of social, economic and environmental factors and, sometimes, medical treatment is not the only solution. It may be that someone needs to spend more time outdoors, connect with other people, or spend time on a new hobby to support their recoveryIn this case, a ‘social prescription’ may be to go to the local garden centre with a community group twice a week. Social prescribing addresses people’s needs in a holistic way.  

    Social prescribing supports individuals to take greater control of their own health by co-producing their ‘social prescription’. It re-frames the role patients play from people who would be traditionally referred to as ‘patient’ and expected to ‘follow Doctors’ orders’ to a key partner, with agency, in maintaining good health and living well. Community transport is a citizen-led initiative, where the likely beneficiaries of the service often have a hand in co-producing a solution that meets their needs. Viewing beneficiaries of a service as a co-producer is a core part of the DNA of both community transport and social prescribing.  

    Social prescribing has had a groundswell of support in recent years to reduce pressure on GP and other health services. Most models of social prescribing involve a link worker or navigator who works with people to access sources of support, which might be run by the council or a local charity. Community transport, a service which can open up whole new worlds of support, could be central to this agenda. As well as offering support for people to get to medical appointments and treatments, community transport can get people to ‘socially prescribed’ activities to maintain health and wellbeing. And many services already do just that.  

    I’m looking forward to a panel discussion on the links between social prescribing and community transport at CT ’19, our two day event for CTA members and friends taking place in under two weeks time. Dr Richard Kimberlee,  Senior Research Fellow in the Health and Social Sciences department at the University of the West England and Christiana Melam, the Chief Executive of the National Association of Link Workers, the largest national professional network for social prescribing link workers, will be speaking about the links between community transport and Social Prescribing. I hope to come away with some ways CT can better connect with the social prescribing agenda and how CTA can support members to do that.  If you want to be involved in the conversation at the event, you can book your place at ctauk.org/ct19. 

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    • Sarah Oughton

      10:38 4th November 2019

      Our group can not afford to come to the conference, this is something of interest to me and I have seen the link for sometime, however many find it difficult to imagine how it can work in practice and whether there could be CT projects with funding.
      Will the CTA be publishing the discussion findings for better understanding and to support CTA members?

    • Trevor Russel

      09:20 1st November 2019

      Community transport is certainly vital to thousands of people who depend on volunteer drivers to get from A to B and back again. But local authorities are cutting their support to CT organisations while many NHS bodies don’t pay a penny to them. Unless funding is increased and sustained, it won’t be a question of how much can CT organisations contribute to the health and wellbeing agenda: it will be a question of whether many of them can survive.

    • Jane Young

      14:19 31st October 2019

      I am unable to get to the conference but would be really interested in anything else you can pick up about social prescribing. I have already reached out to one of our GPs who is sympathetic to it.

      Jane Young
      Connect Assynt

    • Rob Kinning

      11:44 31st October 2019

      Good morning,

      We can already see some of the major benefits of social prescribing, but I think it is vital for those involved in developing and marketing these services to understand the huge impact this is having on those of us in the voluntary sector who are having to deal with the demands of the participants. There is no doubt that social prescribing will alleviate the pressures on GP’s etc, but equally it will be passing on those pressures to others. I would like to illustrate this to you with our own experience in just one area which is already causing us huge problems:

      Many people are now being directed to ‘Reach for Health’ (Health rehabilitation through exercise) who are offering some wonderful services. However, nearly all the people who are being thus directed require transport to get to RfH. Many of these referrals require 2 or 3 visits PER WEEK which brings about a huge increase in demand for transport and consequently a big pressure on our volunteer Car Scheme. The logistics on a weekly basis are intense. We already provide between 17,000 – 20,000 trips per year to medical appointments and this new additional demand is now creating a demand which we will be unable to sustain. Since April 2019, the demand on Reach for Health appointments has quadrupled and is increasing weekly. I have just had a meeting with the Centre Director at RfH to see if there are ways in which we can resolve this. The reality is, we will not just be able to continue to soak up the increasing demand without a different approach.

      I can see the benefit of the social prescribing approach, but unless this is backed up with some financial consideration for those who are working on the front-line, at the point of service delivery, to help us manage increased demand, then we will reach a saturation point. If we are not able to offer transport, then the whole process will hit an impasse.

      I am not aware of any funding that is being given to front-line service delivery through the social-prescribing programme and if not, then I think it is essential that this is given immediate consideration.

      Rob Kinning

    • Maggie Lawson

      11:31 31st October 2019

      Hi Anneessa, I would love to chat to you about our CT and social prescribing project here in the Highlands. Unfortunately I can’t make the conference. Please feel free to get in touch

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