Patients at three of Warwickshire’s main hospitals now have access to a ‘social prescribing’ service run by Age UK Warwickshire that aims to help them stay healthy, independent and active in their communities once they leave hospital.
The Hospital Social Prescribing Service has been commissioned by Warwickshire County Council (WCC) in partnership with South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group (SWCCG) and will offer support to patients at Warwick Hospital, Nuneaton’s George Eliot Hospital and St Cross Hospital in Rugby for the next two years.
Social prescribing helps people to access non-medical services that can enable them to manage their own physical and mental health better and can encourage them to make lasting changes to their lifestyles, so they stay well.
The hospital-based service will play an important role in making sure that patients are discharged in a safe and timely way, with access to available help in their communities.
The service has been piloted in Warwickshire over the past few years and received good feedback from patients, their carers, and health and social care professionals.
It’s been found to reduce delays in discharge from hospital, reduce the risk of falls when patients leave hospital and the need to access A&E services. It’s also been found to improve mental wellbeing and people’s independence, and to maximise people’s income by raising their awareness of benefits they might be entitled to, such as attendance allowance.
There have already been success stories. One individual, the main carer of their elderly parents, described the service and help they received as “truly amazing”. They were made aware of attendance allowance, as well as local organisations that could help with household tasks and gardening, and other support available to carers. They were also given information on a volunteer local transport scheme that could take their parents to medical appointments.
Another example of the impact of social prescribing is that of an elderly lady who was socially isolated, struggling with her finances and who had lost confidence in living independently. She was referred to the service by a nurse so a detailed assessment of her situation could be completed by Age UK.
The service checked her entitlement to benefits and attendance allowance and, through talking with her, identified that the white goods in her home were almost broken. The lady was very worried about her future.
Her husband had served in the army, so a referral was made to the SSAFA (Armed Forces Charity) who provided a new fridge and washing machine. A higher rate of attendance allowance was also awarded, and benefit checks resulted in an increased pension credit, which has helped to improve her quality of life and hygiene in the home and reduced her anxiety.
The lady was extremely grateful for the support and kindness shown and felt comfortable that she could live out the rest of her life without worrying about finances.
Councillor Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “This is very good news that Age UK Warwickshire has been commissioned to deliver the social prescribing service within three of our main hospitals in the county.
“We want to support vulnerable members of our communities to be healthy and this is another example of how Warwickshire County Council is working with other organisations, such as Age UK, to deliver services that will help our residents to be independent and safe.
“The Hospital Social Prescribing Service is about using a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, offering support to patients and their carers to identify their needs and work towards outcomes that will enable them to be independent, with the overarching aim being that there are discharged from hospital in a safe and timely way.”
An Age UK spokesperson said that they are delighted to have secured the two-year contract, supporting Warwickshire County Council and South Warwickshire CCG in maintaining and improving people’s overall health, wellbeing and quality of life when being discharged from hospital.
The Hospital Social Prescribing Service is provided 6 days per week and during peak times where there is demand for the service.