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Could Social Prescribing Aid Winter Pressures?

It's no secret that winter time brings a lot of extra pressures in primary care - flu jab campaigns, patients rife with cold and flu, and vulnerable patients being even more at risk. 


There's no denying its been a difficult year for the NHS and especially Primary Care. Many of us have had to put steps in place due to this climate of austerity; budgeting, cutting back, even working more - but is there any logic we can apply to primary care to likewise combat these pressures?

Social prescribing has really made a name for itself in primary care this year, with many practices channelling their energies into non-medical related programmes in order to better the lives of their patients. A ‘Wednesday Wander’ where practices take patients for a lunchtime walk in a nearby park or ‘Knit & Natter’ where patients get together to well, knit and chat are great examples of these sort of activities.

Many patients have seen a real benefit from the implementation of these programmes, with our very own FPM blog contributor Kay Keane seeing tremendous success as detailed in this interview.

There is of course no quick fix for the pressures that will soon be battering down on the NHS, and implementing a few programmes certainly isn’t going to solve all of those problems.

However I do feel they definitely have the potential to alleviate some of the negative impacts of winter. For example: 

  • If you have an artistically minded group already organised, they could design posters advertising cold and flu prevention or flyers advising to consult a pharmacist for medicine. 
  • A care package programme – volunteers get together and make care packages to deliver to high-risk vulnerable patients. 
  • Promote eating well as part of cold and flu prevention – hand out recipes for nutritious foods like soup. 
  • Knitting groups can help emphasise the importance of staying warm! 

  • Run a Sleep Well class – promote different methods for getting a better night’s sleep and share the important effect sleep has on our health. 

  • Host a group consultation for those suffering with colds – some would like the comfort of speaking to a professional, so no matter how many times you advise to take cold and flu relief on a poster it may not have any affect. 

  • By hosting a group consultation, the patient receives the comfort of speaking to a healthcare professional and the practice saves on numbers of appointments by consolidating 6 to 1.

  • Strong communication ensures your messages reach their targets. Would telephone appointments make life easier for your practice? Could you share NHS Choices’ advice on keeping well this winter on social media or even in an email?

 

Ultimately nothing is going to make this winter any easier and as many have already speculated this winter is probably going to be one of the worst on record. The only thing we can do is prepare by putting some procedures in place - find out what works best for your practice and utilise its strengths. Hopefully this will limit the negative impacts practice managers will face.


Don’t forget to refer to our invaluable
Winter Pressures Checklist for more advice on preparing for the colder times ahead. Plus, why not share your tips on preparing for winter with fellow PMs in the comments section below!


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