Inspiring. Humbling. Astounding. Life-changing.
Just a few of the words shared by attendees after this event.
This is the power of lived experience.
On Wednesday 21st April, One Healthtech Bristol held their second Virtual Article Cahoot on, “Social Prescribing - the answer to our Covid Recovery?”. This time, in addition to the WATCH. READ . LISTEN resources provided in advance of the event, attendees asked to also hear from an expert.
Victoria Norman of Signum Health and Jordan Rimmington from the Chalk Effect Climbing Project kindly agreed to provide that expertise.
Victoria is a technology leader who cares passionately about people. A powerful combination. When incorporated into the realms of social prescribing and the vast human need and subsequent potential health benefits, the opportunity is obvious but intimidating; how can social prescribing, enabled by technology, change people’s lives, improve health and reduce health inequalities and maybe even mitigate the long lasting effects of COVID-19 and support the national recovery?
Signum Health was founded by Victoria over two decades ago when, whilst working in the NHS in Bristol, Victoria identified that services that provided for the ‘whole person’, which had the biggest impact on an individuals health and well-being, were not well interconnected and opportunities to support people and to improve lives were being missed.
The benefits of social activities, community initiatives and volunteering are well documented and include social, economic, emotional and practical gains, but social prescribing is a way for clinicians to actively refer individuals to these non-clinical organisations, groups and local community services when presenting at primary care settings. Supported by the commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan, a network of Link Workers exists across England that aims to undertake 900,000 such referrals by 2023/24.
Digital technology is an enabler for social prescribing, providing the digital shortcuts and connections that make programmes sustainable, robust and, most importantly, more readily available for those in need. Platforms, like Signum Health’s i-Navigator, play an important part in transforming care and connecting the various services together to allow patients faster, personalised, informed and accessible care.
However, Victoria highlighted that it is not something we should over-formalise. Social prescribing is the mechanism, but this is about a social movement of the people. It is communities and individuals, supporting each other and addressing the elements that impact our lives in the broadest sense. It is beyond clinical care and about the holistic person; bringing a collaborative ethos, a commitment to shared responsibility, social solidarity and common good. It is without discrimination and without borders.
This is particularly important when considered in the context of the past year where the impact of the pandemic has touched every part of the fabric of our lives. Indeed, with the effects on mental health and wellbeing, and the social and economic impact not yet fully understood, it seems obvious that any recovery must incorporate such an approach. Especially in light of the expected ‘ripples’ beyond the ‘time of Covid’ itself and into our future lives, and whilst the response to supporting those with Long Covid is only beginning.
There is a health service economic benefit of course. The return on investment is considered high, especially in regards to supporting medication adherence and reduced unnecessary GP appointments for those suffering from Long Term Conditions, but there is still more work to be done on linking outcomes and cost savings more robustly. Technology and data will play an obvious role in this. Yet, there is greater clarity on the impact to the person, indeed in some instances it has saved the person, and it was at this point in the evening that Victoria introduced us to Jordan.
Jordan Rimmington had lost everything. He had gone into rehab to try and ‘stop the outside world’ and to recover from the alcoholism that had cost him his job, his home and his family. Whilst he had been extremely isolated and in a dark place, he told us all about his desire for redemption and change; not just for himself, but for those like him in similar circumstances.
He wanted to help others. He recognised the fear in people’s anxiety and his unique position to relate, understand and be able to nurture someone out of the house and the important and life-changing role that social prescribing can play in that too. As a consequence, he set up the Chalk Effect Climbing Project, a community interest company that supports those in need to experience the sport of climbing in a uniquely positive environment. All based on an understanding and insight that can only be achieved through lived experience that he approaches from a position of honesty, openness, and conviction.
Jordan described how spending an hour with someone engaging in something that supports a person so holistically providing physical, mental and social benefits whilst also having an achievable goal, can be transformational. Although for him climbing has always been a passion, he has been able to make a difference to people suffering as he did from mental health issues, alcoholism and other addictions. He is a man on a mission, taking individuals from places of reticence and reluctance:
“They had all woken up feeling nervous and anxious that day, I know they all didn’t want to come. But they did..”
To experiences that provide:
“Laughter, joy, happiness and connection. They proved to themselves that they could achieve something. That they could get out of bed, even in fear. That other people felt as they did and had rebuilt their lives. That it was possible and that anything you want to do in reality you can, you can achieve at least one thing every day.”
The Chalk Effect Climbing Project continues to grow from strength to strength and is looking to expand to a second town and climbing centre to support more groups. This example was such a powerful demonstration of the role social prescribing and the connected groups and activities can play that it left many of us attending changed by the experience with much to think about in our own lives. Thank you Victoria and Jordan for sharing this with us.
Inspiring. Humbling. Astounding. Life-changing.
Due to the content of the event, we ran out of time for discussion and so a follow-up One Healthtech Bristol Event will take place on Wednesday 12th May at 6pm to facilitate this. All are welcome, even if you were unable to attend the first event.
Author: Fi Dawson (Bristol)