How to Help Social Prescribers get the Best Outcomes for Patients
In our July blog post, ‘How to Prepare for Social Prescribing in your PCN’, we analysed the roll out of social prescribing as a means to relieve pressure on clinical staff. Since then, recruitment has begun and a quick look at the NHS website shows 245 open vacancies for social prescribers have been listed since mid-October 2019.
The recruitment drive has some pressing targets; NHS England says that more than 1000 trained social prescribing link workers will be in place by the end of 2020/21, rising further by 2023/24. The aim is that over 900,000 people are able to be referred to social prescribing schemes by then.
Given the wide reach of the role it’s positive to see the emphasis on ‘trained’ link workers. We’ve delved into the role from a training point of view for our second post on this topic.
The complex, demanding role of the social prescribing link worker
This is a complex, demanding and rewarding non-clinical role. In summary, The King’s Fund describes social prescribing as:
“Designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, and many schemes are focussed on improving mental health and physical well-being. Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with mild or long-term mental health problems, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.”
Social prescribers need to be able to do more than listen and signpost. They need to feel able to help patients make positive change in their lives and co-create a plan to make that change happen. As such, social prescribers need to feel confident going into a wide range of situations that might include mental health issues, loneliness, complex social needs or even debt or physical inactivity.
We need to recognise too that some of the social prescriber’s caseload of patients may not be receptive to help from a non-clinical worker. Therefore, in addition to knowledge about how to help people practically, and in a way to which they will be receptive, link workers will need the soft skills to listen, persuade and build trust with their patients.
Accredited training for social prescribing link workers
Having reviewed a number of job adverts, applicants to social prescriber roles should be trained to or working towards NVQ Level 3, Advanced level or equivalent qualifications. Motivational coaching and interviewing skills are desirable but not essential skills. Given that social prescribing link workers will therefore come from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of skills and experience, it’s clear that comprehensive training is essential to making the role a success.
A comprehensive optional e-learning course is already available through the Practice Managers Association. This course is available at no cost but with an option to have the course accredited by the Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) at an additional fee. This course is a comprehensive online course and at Miad Healthcare we’re looking at ways to support this through other learning channels.
The NHS competency model for non-clinical staff gives an indication of the skills training from which social prescribers will benefit: Motivating and supporting skills, developing effective relationships, self-awareness, ethical practice, effective communication, managing information, protecting patients, and organising and networking skills. Learning in these areas will be invaluable to those who take on one of the new roles.
Supporting knowledge development for social prescribers
It’s our belief that comprehensive training to bring social prescribers up to speed will enable them to achieve the best outcomes for their patients. Our training programme of ten half-day sessions has been designed to complement the existing e-learning programme. The Miad Healthcare programme includes a mixture of group work and trainer-led sessions.
Areas we cover include communication skills, motivational Interviewing, dementia awareness, mental health awareness, long term conditions, rights, deprivation and loneliness. Plus, from a personal development point of view we host sessions on resilience and stress management.
What does success look like?
Social prescribing has the potential to make a big impact on the NHS and on patients. According to The Practice Manager’s Association, “One third of the NHS workforce is made up of non-clinical staff and there is evidence that enabling these staff so that they can support clinicians with administration can free up 11-30% of clinical time.”
According to The King’s Fund, “Social prescribing can help to strengthen community resilience and personal resilience, and reduces health inequalities by addressing the wider determinants of health.”
If social prescribers are to help fulfil these statements, then we need to ensure we set them up for success. To find out more about Miad Healthcare’s training for social prescribers and other non-clinical roles please get in touch with the team.