My working life as a doctor in Doncaster is divided between the time I spend as chairman of NHS Doncaster clinical commissioning group and my clinical role as a local GP.
The roles work hand-in-hand. The knowledge and experience I gain from consultations with patients is invaluable in my strategic role as CCG chairman.
Our role is to organise and pay for the NHS-funded services Doncaster patients need and to monitor the quality of those services closely, making improvements when necessary.
There has been a lot of media coverage recently about pressures on GPs from increased workload.
Locally, we are trying to develop new services that will ease those pressures and there is a good initiative being trialled in parts of Doncaster called social prescribing.
It is a partnership between South Yorkshire Housing and Doncaster CVS, to help GPs and other medical staff based at surgeries by offering a single point of contact for their patients’ social and community needs.
Many patients suffer health problems because of other issues that impact on their lives, such as managing their money and paying their bills, or finding suitable accommodation to live in.
Some need help to look after their emotional wellbeing, or support to find a job or to do volunteering activities.
Others feel isolated because they have little contact with others and loneliness can affect their mental state.
If patients do not get help to address these problems which are making them feel unwell then they will simply keep coming back to the surgery.
The GP uses a social prescribing pad to refer a patient for the specific social issue they have and the referral is passed on to a social prescribing adviser.
The adviser then visits the patient to co-design with them, and sometimes their family or carer, a self-care programme, matching them to services within the community and voluntary sector that can help.
The advisers make follow-up visits to the patient over the next 13 weeks to see how they are getting on and to check if they need any extra support and feedback their findings to the patient’s GP.
In the four months since the scheme started, 202 people have been referred.
Interestingly, 181 of those patients had previously visited their GP an average of 3.5 times over the previous three months and eight patients had seen their GP 10 times or more.
This is just one of many initiatives to help Doncaster surgeries.
The project will be evaluated to see how effective it has been, but will hopefully impact on GPs’ workload by targeting the wider issues that impact on people’s health.
I am hopeful it will it will delay and reduce the need for long-term care by providing good support services that help to improve quality of life, maintain dignity and reduce social isolation.