As part of the University of Plymouth's EPIC programme, we will be repurposing our community platform to extend the benefits of social prescribing.
Picture the scene. Martin, a frequent visitor to his GP following the death of his wife, is referred to a community link worker. They undertake a “guided conversation” and together they conclude that despite a number of minor health issues and financial concerns, Martin is above all else lonely.
The link worker discovers that Martin is interested in gardening, used to love playing scrabble with his wife and wishes he could stay in touch more often with his son and grandchildren who live 200 miles away in Twickenham. The link worker searches the community directory and finds both a volunteer group planting trees and a scrabble club within 2 miles of his home, and also posts a request to help Martin set up Skype on his PC.
Oliver, a young man in the next street who himself has periods of low mood, sees Martin’s post and decides he’d like to help. He is reference checked by a participating community organisation before arranging to visit Martin and help him with his computer. Over time, Martin’s wellbeing increases and his visits to the GP decline significantly. Oliver gains credits on the exchange for helping Martin, and his wellbeing also improves. They even play the odd game of scrabble together.
Health commissioners, primary care providers and local authorities share a common problem: growing demands for services alongside shrinking resources. Indeed, around 40% of visits to GPs are by people who are socially isolated rather than bio-medically unwell – problems GPs are ill-equipped to address. Evidence is growing for an effective social prescribing model that maximises community resources and, for this to work effectively, GPs and link workers need access to accurate and ultra-local information about neighbourhood activities and groups. Community members meanwhile need a means to ask for help and offer help to others.
At Made Open, we are aiming to provide a solution that meets these needs. As part of Creative England’s EPIC programme, we will be repurposing our community platform to extend the benefits of social prescribing. The platform (due live early 2019) will help people to quickly access information about local groups, activities and support services that matches their own needs, skills, interests, location and availability. We will be demonstrating this initially by repurposing the Cornwall Link site in partnership with Age UK Cornwall, Veor Surgery (a GP practice in Camborne) and Cornwall Rural Communities Council.
We are confident that Made Open will be a unique platform that helps people like Martin to be referred to community groups and clubs (e.g. gardening and scrabble clubs) whilst also receiving member-to-member support from people like Oliver living in his community (e.g. I will help you with your PC, I will play scrabble with you). When combined, this will be a compelling proposition that truly accesses the resources, skills and experience available in a community; and encourages community members to utilise what they already possess – compassion.
On a technical front, we are currently exploring opportunities to share information to / from patient record systems such as EMIS and Systm1 and would welcome partnership with organisations who can assist us in this area. We are clear that Made Open is a community resource – one that can primarily help to maximise community resources but can, at the same time, help GP’s to reduce the frequency with which lower risk / complexity patients make unnecessary visits to their surgery.
Our new platform will aim to bring together three core elements:
A community directory that lists informal community groups, activities and local assets, alongside voluntary organisations and opportunities, with open access for the community as well as social prescribing practitioners.
A community exchange that enables community members (individuals, groups and organisations) to directly post requests for help or make an offer to help others, while building a record of their engagements (a ‘social CV’).
Integration with patient record systems to enable GP’s to proactively manage down costs by referring ‘socially-ill’ patients to social prescribing navigators and / or verified Activities and Members on the community platform.
The Made Open platform has largely been a self-funded initiative from the service design team at Made Open Communications Ltd. Accordingly, we welcome contact from anyone who can provide us with financial or practical contributions to our cause. Either way, keep an eye out for us, things are changing. For more information, please contact Robert Woolf.
The EPIC programme is a ‘Collaborate’ project involving the University of Plymouth, Creative England, Kernow Health CIC, Cornwall Partners in Care and the Patients Association. The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.