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Community Links: social prescribing project

In local GP surgeries volunteers promote community based activities and services that improve health and wellbeing.

Addressing Health Inequalities

Originally called the Community Health Advocates, this social prescribing project was part of Voluntary Action Camden’s (VAC) health inequalities work to address issues that contribute to poor health outcomes for Camden residents. In 2018, the project became Community Links.

Health and well-being is a primary focus for both the NHS and Camden Local Authority.  Camden has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country and our health profile, though improving over the last decade, still has a gap of up to 11.6 years life expectancy for men between the wealthiest and poorest areas of the borough.

The gap in life expectancy between women from the wealthiest and poorer areas of Camden is 6.2 years. According to the latest Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA), this gap in life expectancy is the third highest amongst London boroughs for men and the 6th highest gap amongst London boroughs for women.

Community Links – How does it work?

Local volunteers with RSPH* training are stationed in GP waiting rooms promoting community based activities and services that improve health and wellbeing.

VAC’s Community Links service is the first point of contact for the wider Social Prescribing Service. Clinicians, social workers, and residents can find out what is available for them in borough and how to access these activities, with assistance if required.

The Community Health Advocates promote community-based services and activities that contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Community Links also develops more formal ‘referral’ relationships and works closely with GPs and social workers to connect socially isolated people with activities and services in their neighbourhoods.

*Voluntary Action Camden is a registered RSPH (Royal Society for Public Health) training and examination centre for delivering the Level 1 Award in Health Awareness.

The value of partnership working

The service is a collaboration between VAC, Age UK Camden and Wish Plus. This enables the Social Prescribing offer to be comprehensive and wide ranging and able to address complex care needs; create easy access into key advice, welfare and support services and help residents find community-based activities and services where they can connect socially and pursue different interests.

The value of VAC taking on this part of a Social Prescribing Service lies in the ability to access thousands of local groups and organisations, having working relationships with many of them, and having a strong knowledge about the services and support, they provide. This means that Community Links is unrestrained in what it can offer through referral into community-based activities and focus on the specific interests of each resident.

Community Links hosts a Social Prescribing learning network. This provides a space to investigate challenges and issues arising by bringing stakeholders together to problem solve and improve service provision and access for referrals.

The Social Prescribing service also has a monthly Big Team meeting, which brings together the service staff, and volunteers, with public sector stakeholders to promote, assess and develop the Social Prescribing model

Project Impact

The project has helped to increase local knowledge (including GP knowledge) about prevention and health improving activities delivered by local organisations. Health Advocates are in increasing numbers of GP practices and libraries are providing an outreach element to the service and helping with referrals.

Our long-term aim is to improve wellbeing and prevent ill health through better connections and knowledge across public services, voluntary and community sector activity and Camden residents.

More information

To find out more information about this project please contact Donna Turnbull dturnbull@vac.org.uk or go to their Care Navigation and Social Prescribing Service page.

Want to find out about more social prescribing projects? Read our case study about Redbridge CVS’s Health and Wellbeing Buddies service.

London Plus facilitates the CVS directors network, which you can read about in our blog.