East Sussex Social Prescribing Pathway

A new East Sussex Social Prescribing Pathway is in development. Our Chief Executive, Neil Blanchard explains why and how the project came about.        

What is Social Prescribing?

Social Prescribing is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services, typically provided by voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations.

Recognising that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way and support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

Social Prescribing is fast developing a strong evidence base as both an effective way to improve health and social inequalities for patients, as well as relieving pressure off clinical staff. 

The Government has recently committed to expand access to social prescription services to all GP practices nationally, with funding commencing from July 2019 for the employment of social prescribing ‘Link Workers’ across each Primary Care Network.

Social Prescribing development in East Sussex

In East Sussex a number of ‘social prescribing’ services have been commissioned and developed by statutory and VCS providers.

Models include GP and health professional-linked care navigators, VCS mental health community connectors/navigators, proactive care practitioners, health coaches and locality link workers.

Alongside these, there are wider community-based health and wellbeing advice and guidance services that GPs can refer to as part of a social prescription.

Social prescribing covers a number of the health, social care and public health priority areas, but up until now there has not previously been a single commissioning or service development strategy.  An unintended consequence of this has resulted in a level of confusion for referrers, GPs, clients, carers, providers and staff. There are also client groups whose needs are unmet.

Since late 2017, a core group of VCS agencies already providing GP interfacing social prescribing services (Southdown, Care for the Carers, Age UK East Sussex and SCDA) with the support of VCS infrastructure organisation 3VA, have worked with statutory partners to consider the best way to align and improve the effectiveness of social prescribing across east Sussex.

Agreement, with linked funding for dedicated project management resources, to commence from March 2019 a two-year project to establish an integrated East Sussex Social Prescribing Pathway.

The East Sussex Social Prescribing Pathway Project

Key aims of the project are to:

  • agree a consistent definition of social prescribing services and roles
  • establish a consistent referral and support pathway
  • develop shared impact measures
  • systemise workforce resources and competences across VCS and statutory services, and
  • use evidence and learning to shape the redesign and commissioning of future services.

Social Prescribing Project Manager

The VCS is the lead for the project, supported by a dedicated Social Prescribing Project Manager, Carla Hawkins, with Southdown acting as host employer. 

Carla is a central point of contact for both statutory and VCS as they deliver the project outcomes to develop the East Sussex Social Prescribing Pathway.

Whilst employed by Southdown, Carla works on behalf of an alliance of VCS organisations and is accountable to the project’s Steering Group consisting of representatives from both the VCS and statutory services (Public Health, Adult Social Care, Clinical Commissioning Groups and GPs).    

Although the project is led by a core group of five VCS organisations, the aim is to adopt a ‘generous leadership’ approach to capacity build within the wider VCS sector and offer opportunities for a wide range of VCS providers to be linked into the Pathway.

The first key priorities for the project is to map and define existing social prescribing activities, network with all interested parties, as well as working with GP Federations and emerging Primary Care Networks to consider how the additional funded Link Worker posts can align with the Pathway project.

For more information, please contact Carla Hawkins, Project Manager, at carla.hawkins@socialprescribingeastsussex.org. Also visit our website page on the Project and follow Carla on Twitter @CarlaHawkinsVCS