Voluntary Action Camden

Camden Care Navigation & Social Prescribing service

Role: Donna Turnbull - Community Development Manager Date: Sept. 2020

Voluntary Action Camden manages the 'Community Links’ ‘first point of access’ part of the Camden Care Navigation and Social Prescribing service.

Our service

We’re funded by Camden CCG (now NCL CCG) and have been working with them (along with other organisations) to develop a social prescribing model since 2013.

Age UK Camden holds the contract and manages the Care Navigation part of the service for people with complex needs. Pre-COVID-19 we had started to work on aligning mental health social prescribing with our commissioners.

We now also employ and manage some of Social Prescribing Link Workers for Primary Care Networks within the service.

Wish Plus are also part of the service, but are a Council service. This relationship supports easier referral into Council or specific types of services, like housing repairs etc.


Involving the VCSE sector in the design of our service

We began with volunteers signposting from GP practices to local Voluntary Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs). We worked closely with those groups and organisations providing activities that were most in demand, and helped them promote their services in GP practices.

We share learning and data with our VCSE services so they can use that to fundraise for their services. Many VCSE organisations and groups have developed their offer as social prescribing ‘providers’, alongside the development of the ‘prescriber’ side. This means they’re aware of the importance of organisational culture to support social prescribing e.g. being welcoming, flexible etc.

"Our team triages each referral, sending complex cases on to Care Navigation, and making referrals directly into community activities and social opportunities"

Our Referral Model

Referral is via a GP or other health professional, or by self-referral. We receive referrals in a variety of ways – forms, NHS email, EMIS (the GP system), email, and freephone – plus we have Community Links volunteers who provide outreach and referral support from GP practices (more recently they have been supporting the referral process with phone support to clients).

Our Community Links team triage each referral we receive, sending complex cases on to Care Navigation and/or making referrals directly into community activities and social opportunities.

The Care Navigation service provides up to 6-weeks’ case work – whereas the Community Links team (supported by volunteers in GP practices) maintain relationships with people only until the service user is connected with something that works for them.

All teams report back to the original referrer, and follow up with the service user to make sure the referral has been successful. If not, the team will offer alternatives to try and find more suitable support.

Barriers to social prescribing for the VCSE sector

Most VCSEs are already doing social prescribing to some extent – whether they call it that or not – and this needs recognition.

The VCSE provider funding situation should be addressed as core costs and staff time in a holistic fashion, alongside the ‘prescriber’ referral models. It’s not just a problem of not enough funding – it’s the way that VCSE organisations are funded that can be problematic.

"Recognition and trust are fundamental in order to deliver on health and wellbeing"

Key factors to achieving successful partnership working

Our key principles are to be flexible, open to continuous learning and development, and fearless about taking risks or making changes. We’re very fortunate in having commissioners who also take this approach.

Ultimately, we’ve achieved pretty much a 100% satisfaction rate from our service users, who are eager to feedback to us about their good experience – such as better health outcomes, reduced need for medication, or behaviour change for a healthier lifestyle.

How commissioners can improve engagement with the VCSE sector

Funders and commissioners need to have a better understanding of the sector – what it does and what it has to offer – and to have trust in they VCSE organisations can do.

It’s not a case of taking VCSE offerings and medicalising them, or using them as a cheap option. Rather than project-focused funding, we need to see more flexible funding to allow VCSE organisations to deliver outcomes.

Recognition and trust are fundamental in order to deliver on health and wellbeing through the levels of resourcing available for VCSEs.



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