After extensive professional training, link workers are the bridge empowering individuals to find new purpose and social connection, as a non-pharmaceutical prescription to improve health and wellbeing.
Services can be accessed digitally for people in self-isolation or shielding, and in-person meetings can be scheduled at a variety of public and private places – wherever the individual feels comfortable.
‘Social prescribing is really powerful,’ said Trish De Carteret, BSP link worker and link worker manager.
‘My colleagues and myself are really excited about it – it’s going to be a tour de force.’
All UK social prescribing schemes so far have been shown to help, said Dr Louise Brook, an IslandHealth GP.
‘For us this is a long-awaited tool to help improve the island’s wellbeing. Now the community has these fantastic link workers in place to join the dots between patients’ needs and having them met.’
Through her work, Dr Brook has seen a ‘definite need’ for social prescribing.
‘In general, practitioners see lots of people with problems which are often related to loneliness, stress, mood disorders, or problems with housing, employment or their social situation.
‘There may be a role for medicines, but they don’t solve everything, and we’ve seen a tendency from the public and doctors due to lack of alternatives to medicate human distress.’
Time constraints with appointments offered little time to address these problems.
‘While we could prescribe drugs, signpost to therapy, or give life advice, practitioners are limited to 10 to 12 minutes with a patient, whereas link workers have more time to listen to their needs.’
Covid delayed the initial launch, plus exacerbated loneliness and despair, Dr Brook said, so the need for social prescribing is there now more than ever.
She hoped that patients would start to ask about it and that it would eventually lead to a self-referral system.