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Emily Downs’ social prescribing experience

Ross porter_oMy name is: Emily Downs

I am a: Physiotherapist

I took the CHALLENGE FOR CHANGE because:
I was fed-up of feeling unable to meet the full needs of my patients using clinical practice alone and I began to realise how ignorant I was of what there was available in the community. I also have a strong belief in asset-based community development – helping to restore connections and utilise resources in communities to enable them to become their own support networks and health-makers.

I achieved it by:
Searching for community and voluntary groups in the local area that could be of benefit to my patients. I took down key details and contacted the groups where necessary to be able to give quality information to inspire my patients.

Another lady was interested in attending tai chi classes but was unable to find the motivation herself. A social prescription to the class from a health professional was all the persuasion she needed and at follow up after her first class, her mood and pain levels were significantly improved.

I found it:
Surprisingly easy, by searching the local council’s website I was able to find 5-6 unique, interesting and relevant signposts in well under an hour of my time. From dance to boules and from arthritis to cinema clubs for those with disabilities and their carers, I was amazed at the extent of what there was available.

I was also surprised at patients’ responses. I’d had fears that my suggestions would fall on deaf ears due to personal, social and physical barriers often preventing engagement in these type of things. However, a number of times this was not the case, especially when I involved family and/or carers. Other times, gentle encouragement over a number of visits was effective.

What happened?
One lady loved her gardening but due to physical condition could no longer do very much safely, the condition also meant that it was less easy to get out and about and she was feeling quite isolated. Signposting her (socially prescribing) to the local horticultural club meant that she could pursue her interest in gardening in a more conducive environment and meet people with similar interests enhancing both social-wellbeing and support networks.

Another lady was interested in attending tai chi classes but was unable to find the motivation herself. A social prescription to the class from a health professional was all the persuasion she needed and at follow up after her first class, her mood and pain levels were significantly improved. This was one of my first attempts at social prescription and if I hadn’t witnessed it myself I would not have believed the change.

The patient:
I have tried to use social prescribing principles a number of times. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t at the time, but one thing that I true of all of them is that the patient has been grateful for the sentiment and for taking the time to get to know them and offer them something other than generic healthcare.

What would I do in future?
The more times I practice social prescription the more I learn what does and doesn’t help and what information patients are most likely to ask for with regards to attending the prescription. I intend to use this to create a folder for myself and colleagues to access containing this information for each group so that we are best armed in that first contact thus making us able to be most effective in supporting change.

I proved:
To myself that social prescription does not have to be difficult and does not have to be a huge change but that a small action can make a significant different to the patient involved and their nearest and dearest.