Social Prescribing Background
The Bromley by Bow Centre was one of the earliest pioneers of social prescribing principles and we aim to apply them in everything we do, including managing crisis situations. For our skilled social prescribing link workers this means; taking time to get to know a person, giving them space to make sense of their situation and feelings, then jointly developing a plan to help the person access the right information and support.
Social prescribing was developed in recognition that the majority of factors affecting mental and physical ill health are social and economic – people need friends and a feeling of belonging, a sense of purpose, financial security, a safe home and hope for their future.
Our crisis response
Our social prescribing service is classically triggered by a referral from a health professional. However, during the Covid-19 crisis, a combined Health Partnership and Social Prescribing team began a project to actively reach out to patients. People were identified, using health data and local knowledge, as having additional risk of social and economic vulnerability due to lock down measures.
People were contacted by the social prescribing health team on the phone. These phone calls were widely welcomed and uncovered a higher level of distress and need than was expected with many respondents on their own and feeling scared. Many people required help for essential needs such as food deliveries and help with accessing health advice. They also needed reassurance during an anxious time and a sense they were not alone.
During a ten-week period, 704 calls were made and 512 people were spoken to in the age range of 9- 90 years. These were people who may not otherwise have been contacted during lock down and many were suffering in silence.
Once the social prescribing health team engaged with people, they were able to activate emergency food supplies from Bow Food Bank and other services from the Centre, and other agencies, that support people with a whole range of worries and concerns. On some occasions it was the conversation itself, the human connection, that was most valued during a troubling time.