A new social prescribing service in Reading links people to activities in the community to help improve their health and wellbeing.

Funded by Berkshire West CCGs’ NHS Partnership Development Fund, the service is operated and run by Reading Voluntary Action (RVA).

Moira has suffered from balance problems for nearly ten years. During this time she has suffered four serious falls, resulting in lost teeth, lots of stitches and even hospital stays.

She was referred to Reading Voluntary Action’s social prescribing service last year by her GP at the Western Elms practice.

She says; “I felt that my falls were affecting my confidence levels and I knew that it was stopping me from doing all the activities that I used to do before. I would see people running for the bus and think...that was me once!”

“I’m the first to admit that the problems affecting me are more to do with confidence and less to do with physical health – I think I’m in relatively good health compared to others my age.”

Social Prescribing, how could you benefit?

  • Improved health and wellbeing
  • Support for health and lifestyle change
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Find local groups and meet new people
  • Practical support in your community
  • Tailored to your wants and needs
  • One stop information service

Moira, who has lived an active life, describes the straightforward referral process ; “I had an hour-long appointment with the social prescriber, who came to see me at my GP practice. She suggested a range of social activities and then put me in touch with the ones that I felt I could benefit from, including Tai Chi and quiz nights at my local church.”

Amber, one of two social prescribers employed by Reading Voluntary Action (RVA), takes up the story; “The service is great for people like Moira who have less severe issues, like lacking confidence or feeling a bit isolated. It makes a difference by focusing on overall health and wellbeing, rather than medical interventions.”

"We help by sign-posting to activities or services that our patients may not know about but could benefit from. It’s not about telling people they should do this or that, it’s about informing them about what’s out there for them, if they want to take it up.”

Social prescribing1Moira continues; “I really enjoyed Tai Chi – it’s great being part of a wider group and being with these wonderful people. Not only has it helped me with my balance it’s helped bring my confidence back.”

“Getting out and about has made me realise that there are others in the same position as me, but who have greater health issues than I have. I normally use a walking trolley to get out and about and I’m determined to get back to using the walking stick again!”

Sarah Morland from Reading Voluntary Action was instrumental in setting up the social prescribing service. She says; “The idea behind social prescribing is that it complements the care that people might be receiving from their GP practice. This approach gives patients of any age the space to talk about some of the non-medical underlying issues that affect their wellbeing and to take steps to tackle them.

“At the initial appointment it’s about helping the patient to identify where they want to make improvements in their life, for example – more physical activity, eating more healthily, getting out more. We then keep in regular contact with the patient and meet them again after three to four months to assess their progress.

“Patients are telling us they feel more able to manage their symptoms and look after themselves; others say they are more positive about life as a result of enjoying new activities or meeting new people.

We are delighted that social prescribing is helping patients to feel more positive and confident. We use the Wellbeing Star to encourage patients to think about many different aspects of their lives including low self-esteem, meaningful activity etc. And if a patient does not feel confident about going along to a new activity by themselves, we can find a volunteer to support that first step.”

On referral to the service, patients attend an hour-long individual appointment with a social prescriber at the patient’s GP practice. Patients are helped to identify the improvements they want to make, including;

  • feeling positive
  • lifestyle
  • looking after yourself
  • managing symptoms
  • money management
  • where you live
  • family and friends
  • work, volunteering and other activities

There are a number of ways to get referred to the social prescribing service:

  • requesting a referral from your GP
  • emailing ,
  • calling RVA on 0118 9 372273 and ask for the social prescribing team

A print-ready copy of this case study is available to download here.

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