Ivybridge residents to benefit from pilot of new 'social prescribing' in GP surgery

By Toby Leigh in Health

A new scheme to launch in Ivybridge will see patients offered access to a wider range of services through their GP surgery.

The social prescribing project is being piloted at Ivybridge Medical Centre in Station Road, part of the Beacon Medical Group.

Social prescribing is a way of connecting health and social care users to voluntary and community support, information and advice. It aims to improve their wellbeing, tackle social isolation, and prevent illness.

With funding from Ivybridge Town Council, BMG and Livewell SouthWest, the pilot will see a new part-time role created at the surgery for an initial period of one year. The social prescriber will take referrals from GPs and other health and social care providers, spend time with individuals and point them in the direction of charities, local organisations and other sources of support.

Beacon Medical Group’s chief operating officer Claire Oatway said: "We’re really excited to be supporting this new position, and see it as a really important role within the practice to link patients with broader support.

"We know social issues often affect people’s health and ability to cope, and this will be a great way to connect patients with specialist services that can help them. Obviously this will benefit some patients more than others, but for people that are isolated, older people or people with young families, this will be a great way to get support to them."

Ivybridge town clerk Lesley Hughes added: "The health professionals are really keen to ensure that this works, and we hope it will make a difference to patients to have more time to talk about other factors in their life, which do not require medical interventions.

"The social prescriber could connect them with support from Citizens Advice, referral to a local befriending group or a contact with others of the same age. As we have quite a few forces families here, so it could be an isolated parent with a young child, as we have no childrens centre now.

"We are keen to monitor the operation of this pilot and hope it will prove beneficial to local residents."

Ivybridge Town Council’s involvement is part of its efforts to shore up services for residents in response to cutbacks by Devon County Council and South Hams District Council. One such costcutting exercise saw SeaMoor Children’s Centre, based in the town hall close last year as DCC moved to reduce the amount it spends on children’s services.

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