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Save the date – Social Prescribing and Inequalities conference – 27 May 2020

We’re hosting a conference!

What? ‘Social Prescribing and Inequalities: critical conversations and practical approaches’

When? 27th May 2020

Where? University of Salford

This conference will explore how social prescribing can help reduce health and social inequalities and how inequalities impact on social prescribing. It will provide an opportunity for academics, practitioners, commissioners and providers to share case studies including the likes of: loneliness, dental challenges, women and children, homelessness and mental health. The conference will help develop practical ideas and strategies which organisations can take away and implement within their own infrastructures.

Social prescribing is now firmly on the national agenda. From the government’s commitment to support the development of social prescribing services in every Primary Care Network to combat loneliness (DCMS, 2018), to the NHS acknowledging the key role social prescribing offers within NHS England’s Personalised Care agenda, it is clear that social prescribing is here to stay and will only continue to grow.

However, key challenges – as well as concerns – remain for practitioners and commissioners of social prescribing services. These challenges and concerns include:

  • Tackling inequalities – the UK is a highly unequal society – how can social prescribing address this? How can social prescribing make a genuine difference to those most in need? How can it be genuinely accessible to all?
  • Workforce development – how can we support link workers and the link worker career pathway, given that they hold such a crucial role in determining the success of social prescribing?
  • Voluntary sector & communities – the social fabric of the UK has been stretched, in many places to breaking point. Given that social prescribing depends on this social fabric, how can we ensure that communities and the organisations that support them, many of which are in the voluntary sector, are given proper resources to meet needs?

Links to book your place and find out more will be shared soon.

For now…. Save the date in your diary!


Some of our summer activities

We’ve been so busy working behind the scenes recently – now it’s time to get outside! (Of the office at least…)

So here are some of the events we’re participating in over the summer – and beyond…

We’re organising an event on 28th June which amongst other things, explores the possibilities offered through placements for nursing, occupational therapy (OT) and other AHP students in third sector organisations. This will be a great opportunity to discuss how students can have real-world learning experiences while contributing to the organisations. It’s also further demonstration of the links we’ve developed and continue to develop between the University of Salford and a range of fantastic organisations in the community. Places are still available for this exciting event – sign up here!

Sarah Bodell and Cormac Lawler will be flying the flag at the Royal College of Occupational Therapy (RCOT) conference in June – this is the main annual conference for Occupational Therapists in the UK. Sarah and Cormac will present the work of the Hub and the assessment tool we’ve developed (more on which below). We’ll be really interested in feedback, given the grounding of our tool in occupational science, and our contention that occupational therapists have so much to offer the world of social prescribing. In addition to this, Sarah will co-host a panel with Paul Cooper of RCOT, on the development of a social prescribing framework for AHP professionals.

Sarah is also convening a panel at the OT Show later in the year – another fantastic opportunity to discuss our work with the OT community.

We’re excited to be participating in the 2nd Social Prescribing Network conference https://www.socialprescribingnetwork.com/conference – Michelle Howarth is co-hosting a workshop on ‘Nursing, dentistry and medical education’, and Cormac Lawler will present a poster on the development of our assessment tool. We’re very much looking forward to catching up with many colleagues, and of course making new connections😊 It’s a packed programme – check it out here.

The first link worker day is approaching (8th July), and we’ve made a short video about our assessment tool as a resource for link workers. This video, along with two others, was organised by the University’s research team, and gave us first-hand (and first time) experience of the green screen studios we have in our MediaCity campus. As there were many videos made at the same time, we’re hoping that ours is ready in time – fingers crossed!

An update on our assessment tool, mentioned above, this resource for link workers supports person-centred assessment and the co-design of a plan around the person’s needs, wants and what is personally meaningful. We’ve been working on this iteratively over the past year, getting feedback and input from a variety of professionals and organisations – we’ve now commissioned a graphic design team to put it together and are very excited that we will soon be able to share it more widely with link workers and social prescribing services. If you’d like to find out more about the tool, or discuss how it might help you in your work, please get in touch.

Finally we’re also organising a conference of our own…. details are still being finalised, and we’ll be opening out a call for participation, but for now you can save the date: 23rd January.


Social Prescribing Day

The first International Social Prescribing Day – what a whirlwind!

Our event in Salford yesterday as part of the first ever International Social Prescribing Day was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the variety of work across the locality and region. Over 50 people came from a variety of backgrounds: link workers, health and social care professionals, voluntary sector and community organisations, social enterprises, commissioners, local authorities, higher education – bringing together an impressive concentration of expertise.

Seeing the interest in the room, echoing events around the country, and trending on twitter (see below), emphasises the swelling interest in putting person-centred approaches at the centre of so much work, and of the significant shift from ‘what’s the matter with you’ to ‘what matters to you’.

Hosted by the Working Class Movement Library – a fantastic resource in Salford – we were welcomed by Lynette of the library who detailed the breadth of their collection (from Peterloo and the suffragette movement, to the miners’ strikes and recent anti-war protests), and invited us to make use of the library and spread the word about this “hidden gem”. We were also delighted to have Alison Page, CEO of Salford CVS, chair the event – and to keep things impressively smooth and to schedule!

Dr Tom Tasker, who splits his time between chairing Salford CCG, chairing CCG work at a Greater Manchester level, and a practicing GP in Eccles, took time away from his practice to give us an insight into the GP’s perspective on social prescribing. Tom talked first about the challenges faced by GPs, and then the opportunities that social prescribing offers – saying it’s the best £1million spent by Salford CCG – before giving an example of one of his patients who has turned his life around following an ‘arts on prescription’ referral to START in Salford.

We took inspiration from Salford’s Wellbeing Matters programme: Wendy Ryan from Salford CVS gave an overview of the programme, and Nicola Spiby on her role coordinating the Community Connectors, and then Charlie, one of the Community Connectors, gave a passionate and vivid account of the Connector/link worker role, and why she does what she does. “You can’t be wet behind the ears to do this job,” she pointed out – Connectors need to have the lived experience in order to listen to people and build trust with them to make it meaningful – and it can sometimes be tough to offer a listening ear to someone who isn’t used to being listened to: “it’s like opening Pandora’s box”. But Charlie, like the rest of her team, is resourceful and rooted in her community – we only wished afterwards that we could have recorded her passion to share with others. Salford is lucky to have its Community Connectors.

We then had the opportunity to talk about our work in Salford University, and the launch of our Salford Social Prescribing Hub! Andrea Gibbons detailed the work she and Michelle Howarth did on mapping the variety and types of social prescribing across Greater Manchester. The report on this work will be published shortly – watch this space. Then Cormac Lawler gave an overview of the Salford Social Prescribing Hub – its interdisciplinary nature, person-centred focus, and its commitment to bringing a solid theoretical foundation to creating practical resources that will help practitioners in their work and improve outcomes for the people at the centre. One of these resources is the tool and training we have developed for link workers, based on Occupational Science – and Cormac extended the invitation to anyone who is interested in the tool to partner with us and use and improve it.

Our hub is one of many networks and strategic and coordinating bodies on social prescribing. Jo Ward outlined her role as coordinator of the North West Social Prescribing Network and invited everyone to join both the regional and the national Social Prescribing Network and get involved in the conversation – including the current consultation on Quality Assurance for Social Prescribing. And Giles Wilmore of the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership highlighted the strategic work ongoing at a GM level, understanding and disseminating good practice across the ten GM boroughs, and echoing strategic work across the country, such as NHS England’s personalised care agenda.

We were transported through stories to transformational spaces… Michelle Howarth presented the exciting work at RHS Garden Bridgewater, which includes setting up a new social prescribing pathway to its wellbeing garden (on which the Hub is evaluation partner), with Ozichi, the new-in-post therapeutic horticulturalist, giving us a flavour of what her role will involve. Heather Henry gave an insight into the ‘Dadly Does It‘ work she has been doing with men in working class communities who often feel that services do not cater for them and are therefore reluctant to engage, and how she and colleagues have addressed this to create men-friendly services and spaces.

There is so much work being done, but there is so much more to do. Over the next few years, we are going to see an increased focus on community-focused and person-centred approaches to healthcare, and our work as health and social care professionals needs to connect, engage and support this through education, research and practice. We’re very excited for our Hub to be part of it, and we look forward to continuing to make practical differences to improve people’s lives and living conditions. May the whirlwind continue…


Training day with Salford Community Connectors

On 27th February, Salford’s Community Connectors came to the University of Salford to learn about the Salford Social Prescribing Tool and explore how it could help them with their work.

The Community Connectors are part of the ‘Wellbeing Matters’ programme, coordinated by Salford CVS in partnership with five ‘anchor’ organisations, each of which is the base for one of the Community Connectors, each of whom covers a particular area of Salford. (More info on our evaluation work on the project on ‘Our Projects’ page.)

In order to give some insight into the tool and where it comes from, Sarah Bodell from the Hub gave an overview of Occupational Science – its history, focus and key concerns – and discussed its resonance with the Connectors’ view of their work.

Sarah also outlined what we’ve gleaned from speaking to link workers, as well as surveying the literature on link working, before going onto discuss. Health Education England’s Competency Framework for Care Navigators. This gave a good opportunity for the Connectors to talk about what they do and how they see their role. The Connectors are deeply passionate about the nurturing aspect of their work: it’s not about ‘doing things to the person’, or ‘getting the person to do things’; it’s about empowering the person, and supporting them to do what they want to do.

We then took some time to examine the assessment tool we’ve developed, and to put it into practice through a rehearsal exercise (similar to role-play) – exploring what kinds of responses are elicited by particular questions, and how to use information gathered to build a holistic assessment and meaningful referral.

It was a great day overall, and we got some really useful feedback on the tool, which will enable us to improve it – which is our current phase of work on developing the tool.

We will be continuing the discussion with the Salford Community Connectors team about how they will be using the tool, which will then inform and shape whether and how our tool will be integrated within the Salford CVS Elemental platform (which would be another exciting development for us).

The Salford Community Connectors are a fantastic group of people, and we feel very privileged to be working with them.