Savitha's story

“Life and health are intertwined; they are so much more than ten minutes with a GP”

Themes: health, GP, community services

After qualifying as a doctor, Savitha worked in a variety of health locations before becoming a GP in East London over 20 years ago. She was encouraged to work at the Bromley by Bow Centre Health Partnership and hasn’t wanted to work anywhere else.

She knew the Centre charity was different with its 40 different community services for anything from advice and employment to gardening groups and sitting alongside an on-site NHS GP practice. However, Savitha saw the reality of this when she bumped into a patient in the photocopier queue, using the same facilities for her English language (ESOL) course materials at the Centre: “Then it dawned on me” Savitha said “Life and health are intertwined; they are so much more than ten minutes with a GP.

“Those ESOL classes run by my patient are vital. They help unlock so much when language is a barrier to accessing services. I can encourage a patient to control their diabetes or take essential medication but if the rest of their life is in turmoil, it won’t work. They may first need housing advice or support to find work. We know health is predominantly driven by social factors, not medical ones.

“When I joined the Centre, its approach was pioneering and it still is. In the early days we developed pathways to link people with community services that addressed their wider health; the genesis of social prescribing which is now available nationwide.”

Becoming a trustee of the Centre was a natural step for Savitha to bring the voice and perspective of patients to the charity board. She wanted to understand the whole integrated approach in more detail and how to support the challenges of running a multi-faceted organisation.

“In Covid times, all GP practices are under pressure as people’s health needs have built up but we need to recognise we are all in danger of overlooking the wider determinants of health. This is what the Centre addresses so well. I can consult with a patient, then refer them on to colleagues for help with broader aspects of their life.

“The Centre’s innovative approach to health is world-renowned but it is also under threat. Each community service is individually funded, often by short-term funding contracts that just stop. People’s complex problems don’t just stop. The day we receive longer term dependable funding that enables us to build healthy lives and communities in a sustainable way, is the day my job as a Trustee will be done” concludes Savitha.

A dedication from a book published by one of Savitha’s patients who was referred to social prescribing at the Centre

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