Around 70% of people who visit their GP have an underlying issue which isn't necessarily medical. A patient could be feeling isolated and lonely; not managing a chronic condition well; or have problems due to debt, or not sleeping, for example. Many of these things will impact on a person's physical and mental health and display themselves as medical symptoms.

In an effort to tackle these issues, we will be hosting a new project, called Social Prescribing, which will work with GPs to support patients who need more community based services. We will be working in partnership with the two Local Community Networks in Chichester District. These networks are made up of GP practices in the north and south of the district, as well as the local NHS, West Sussex County Council, local housing associations and voluntary groups.

This two-year pilot project will employ specialist Community Referrers, two in the north of the district and two in the south to work with GP practices. GPs will then identify and refer those specific patients who frequently seek their help for largely non-medical problems. The Community Referrers will spend time with these patients, working with them to get to the root causes of the problems they are experiencing, and help them find long-term solutions.

As a council we are keen to ensure that people receive the support they need and I am extremely pleased that we are investing in this project, which has the potential to make a difference to many people's lives across the district.

I know that, despite treating these patients' physical symptoms, doctors are frustrated that they cannot help the patient resolve the underlying cause, and have nowhere to refer them for the support they need. The aim is that the community referrers will help doctors to transform the care that they offer to patients.

The community referrers will work with patients to identify and set personal goals. This will in turn help to increase their self-esteem and confidence, and improving general mental wellbeing and mood. It will also increase social communication skills and help people make social connections, as well as encourage them to develop learning, new interests and skills.

Similar social prescribing projects have been set up elsewhere in the country and have proved to be effective in connecting people with their community; empowering them to access groups, activities and services so enabling them to make positive changes to their own lives. The project will be up and running this summer and I look forward to seeing the difference that it makes. 

If you would like to find out more about this exciting scheme, please contact Elaine Thomas, our Community Wellbeing Manager at the council by calling 01243 534588  or emailing ethomas@chichester.gov.uk

Best wishes,

Councillor Eileen Lintill

Cabinet Member for Community Services

Chichester District Council

May 2018