RedbridgeCVS: Health and Wellbeing Buddies

Health and Wellbeing Buddy promoting the scheme

You will never understand how grateful I am for the lovely lady coming to me. Sometimes, all you need is to know that someone is thinking of you at Christmas. I was feeling very lost with everything, but you helped me find the right people who are helping me’. Client Mrs M

RedbridgeCVS’s Social Prescribing Service

RedbridgeCVS has a long track record of working with local people who are recruited and trained as “Health and Wellbeing Buddies” to work in their own communities to share accurate information about a range of often highly stigmatised health conditions such as TB and HIV.

Redbridge is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country and its communities face a range of health-inequalities and challenges. Building on our Health Buddy engagement work, we have developed a pioneering social prescribing service in Redbridge which enables GPs to refer patients for health & wellbeing support delivered by the community with intensive 1 to 1 support provided by a Buddy who is carefully matched with each of the patients referred.

The Buddies are employed as sessional workers and paid at the London Living Wage. The service was a joint initiative by RedbridgeCVS, Redbridge Council and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group but has now secured 4 year match funding from the Department of Health and Social Care’s Health and Wellbeing Fund to expand the scheme to include every GP practice in the borough.

How does it work?

GPs refer patients to RedbridgeCVS, where staff assign them to a Buddy who supports them to access a range of non-medical, community-based services with the aim of reducing social isolation, improving mental health and promoting healthy lifestyles

‘Our GPs can treat the physical symptoms, but often people experiencing social isolation, anxiety, or just feeling very low, can be helped enormously by groups, clubs and social activities that they previously weren’t aware of, or lacked the confidence to join‘

Dr Anil Mehta, Chair of the Redbridge local GPs’ commissioning group

At the initial meeting, the Health & Wellbeing Buddy makes a detailed assessment (designed in partnership with the University of East London) of the client and this is carried out again at 6 months.  The Buddy and client agree a programme of support and the Buddy arranges up to 5 visits with the clients.  These visits can include going with the client to the chosen services until they are confident about the journey and also taking part in the activity.

Who can benefit from the Social Prescribing Service?

The service is available to patients over 18 years of age and registered with any GP practice in Redbridge who are:

  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling low, sad or anxious
  • Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Redbridge Social Prescribing Scheme Launch

Health and Wellbeing Buddies Launch

Learning from the project so far

The project is ongoing, so overall impact has not yet been measured. However, RedbridgeCVS do know that a number of clients are using their GP services significantly less, since being referred.

A key learning has been the importance of matching the Buddy to Client – often matching works best when there are shared life experiences. Additionally, working with the client at times and places of their choosing and going at the clients’ pace is being demonstrated as crucial to the success of the referrals.

Clients often come to the Buddy with severe short-term issues, eg: hunger, risk of eviction etc… these issues need to be addressed with the support of Citizens Advice, Foodbanks etc. Before the Buddy can carry out the longer-term intervention of referrals.

“Pressure on the NHS and social care continues to grow – with the combination of funding limitations, people living longer and increasing prevalence of long-term health conditions. We must continue to focus on finding new ways to prevent, treat and sustainably manage ill-health.”

Councillor Mark Santos, Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board in Redbridge

Voluntary groups that offer many of the referral services are often very stretched with their resources and funding does not yet follow the referral. RedbridgeCVS aims to develop evidence of the savings to public funding generated by social prescribing to encourage the beneficiaries of these savings to provide funding and support to help these groups survive and thrive.

More information…

If you would like to find out more information about this scheme please email or visit their social prescribing page.

Want to find out about more social prescribing projects? Read our case study about the Community Links social prescribing project in Camden.

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