New social service has the time to work

THIS week’s launch of Bailiwick Social Prescribing has involved an unprecedented number of health, wellbeing and charitable organisations in what looks to be a hugely positive bid to address a significant health issue in the island.

This newspaper reported last month that, on average, five people every day are being referred by doctors to local mental health services.

Bailiwick Social Prescribing, funded for the next 18 months by the Guernsey Community Foundation, is a collaboration between the Health Improvement Commission, Island Health, the Community Foundation and the third sector more broadly, taking the approach that medicine alone cannot always make things better.

The need for it was explained by Melissa Mitchell, project lead from the Health Improvement Commission, who said at its launch: ‘70% of health is nothing to do with medicine or doctors but is instead related to non-medical aspects such as where we live, loneliness and social isolation, our lifestyle, our level of education, or where we work.

‘If someone visits their GP, the best prescription may not always be a medical one.’

The opportunity to provide therapy or ‘treatment’ through volunteering or taking part in arts, gardening or cookery is an exciting prospect.

The other important element in the project is time. Under-pressure GPs may struggle to offer patients the time they want, but ‘link workers’ have the scope to speak to referrals and find out exactly how they can help.

We already know that the mental health charity Mind has seen its workload more than double in the past two years. Now Bailiwick Social Prescribing offers an alternative opportunity for genuine development of wellness for individuals, which could be as simple as providing friendship, community, social connections or time in the fresh air.

The plan has been developed over the past two years, so initially pre-dates Covid and lockdowns, though the pressures of the pandemic have almost certainly exacerbated the need for it.

Social Prescribing does seem very much to have the ring of #GuernseyTogether about it.

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