Key agencies from across Warwickshire came together at Nuneaton Town Hall to recognise the work of the Whitestone Patient Participation Group (PPG) in building a social prescribing model. Set up to tackle loneliness and isolation, the Happy, Healthy & Involved scheme has, among its many benefits, seen the prescription of anti-depressants in the area halved and a reduction in the incidence of dementia .
Over 50 guests were in attendance, including county councillors, the Leader of Warwickshire County Council Izzi Seccombe, key health agencies, community groups and MP for Nuneaton Marcus Jones. The event was led by County Councillor for Bulkington and Whitestone Jeff Morgan, who spoke of the PPG’s pioneering work over the last four years to deliver a local model for health and wellbeing.
Social prescribing is when GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals refer people to ‘services’ in their community instead of offering only medication. It is key to building resilient, connected and healthy communities that are able to support their own and each other’s wellbeing.
Following a survey carried out by Whitestone PPG, loneliness was identified as the biggest factor affecting the quality of life for the older people in the area.
This prompted a multi-agency initiative involving Warwickshire County Council, Whitestone PPG, Whitestone Surgery, local charity Guideposts, Carers Trust Heart of England and Volunteer Friends.
The local model, called Happy, Healthy & Involved, an 18 month project to establish a social prescribing health and wellbeing hub in Whitestone, was born from this collaboration. The project team has delivered community health and wellbeing events, a system of local public surveys to establish health and wellbeing needs, a local service directory, and an interactive website.
This offers residents the opportunity to take part in group activities including walking clubs, book clubs, computing, working on an allotment, origami sessions and volunteering activities.
Cllr Jeff Morgan, ward member for Bulkington and Whitestone, said: “This is a way of bringing the local authorities and the NHS together. The PPG has given us the equivalent of 846 volunteer hours within Whitestone and I commend the work of all the Whitestone PPG members who are giving back to their community and helping to exemplify a model of social prescribing we hope to see replicated throughout the county.”
The chair of Whitestone PPG, Di Kent, said: “We were amazed at everything that is available for people in our community, and have realised that people are not necessarily aware of all the services that are available. There is no need for anyone in Whitestone to feel that there is nothing to combat loneliness.
“We want to encourage social prescribing and empower our community to go out and find the support they need to maintain their wellbeing. The ultimate aim for the PPG is to have a healthy living bus so that services can be taken to those customers who can’t come to us.”
Dr Sacha Simon of the Whitestone Surgery said: “The work of the PPG has actually led to reduced demand upon the surgery itself, and we can see this through key indicators including low rates of anti-depressant drug prescriptions from our surgery and reduced diagnoses of early stage dementia. I have no doubt that the work of the project is playing a major role in bringing about these excellent results.”
The Warwickshire County Councillors Award for Community Volunteers (team award) was presented by Cllr Morgan to Bernie and Lynn Emm of the Whitestone PPG, daughter and son in law of the late Mr Ted Pudge, a much loved local figure who was the first chair of the Whitestone PPG.