Crawley Community Action

Social Prescription Plus

Role: John Williams - Chief Executive Date: August 2020

Crawley Community Action has been delivering social prescribing since 2018, working in partnership with Crawley Borough Council, local CCGs, PCNs and the West Sussex Strategic Social Prescribing Network.

Our service

Social Prescription Plus is a joint project between key health partners, working as a steering group (this includes Crawley CCG, Crawley Borough Council, West Sussex County Council – Public Health, Communities Team, and Library Service – and ourselves).

The service began in 2017 and following a successful pilot it is now funded by Crawley CCG via the Better Care Fund. We also receive in-kind support from Crawley Borough Council through seconding a staff member to the service.

Our funding has been extended to September 2021, and we now work with 11 surgeries in Crawley.

Involving the VCSE sector in the design of our service

At the start we held a number of action learning sessions as part of the planning and design of the service, to ensure we were collaborating with the VCSE sector. These sessions also allowed us to identify ‘what “well” looks like’ with patients in Crawley.

Generally, the co-operation and engagement with the VCSE sector has been positive, and we now have around 38 organisations who have passed our quality checks and are on our referral list.  We direct clients to support from these organisations, and a further 70 community groups.

Our Referral Model

We receive referrals from GP surgeries via NHS email, and a member of the team follows up with the client to confirm they’re suitable for the service (occasionally we receive referrals for people who may need specialist help i.e. Mental Health).

We carry out an initial triage to assess the client’s needs that informs their action plan, and once agreed, a Link Worker is allocated to the client.

Our Link Workers support clients to take forward their agreed actions and keeps in touch with the client. Follow-ups take place as appropriate for the client’s specific needs.

"Our service benefits supports provider payments, ensuring investment into VCSE services receiving referrals"

Our service benefits from an additional funding model which supports provider payments, with money attached to referrals. This ensures investment is made into those VCSE services receiving referrals.

We have to be careful of double-funding services – for instance, a client may be referred into a lunch club and the group receives the referral payment, however they’re actually already receiving Council funding to deliver that service.

But on the whole this model works well for us as it supports local voluntary and community groups.

Our Reporting & Impact

Each Link Worker has an annual target of working with 200 patients, and we use our internal database to record all client data, monitor case-loads, and run monthly and quarterly reports to analyse data.

We access statistics around client age ranges, type of support needed, and length of time we work with clients. We also carry out quarterly checks to monitor the capacity of the sector, and identify any organisations who’ve reached capacity or cannot accept any more referrals.

We can identify gaps in service provision, so we can look to develop new services that best meet clients’ needs.  For instance, currently we have a lack of services providing health and nutrition advice and support, so that’s something we’re looking to develop.

Many of our clients stay involved with our work by becoming volunteers, either within our core CVS service or as part of the Prescription Plus – which is fantastic and brings added value to our service.

Barriers to social prescribing for the VCSE sector

The biggest challenge we face is the capacity of organisations to respond to demand. Most are under resourced and are constantly facing financial pressures. Some groups say it’s difficult for them as a charity to provide an NHS service without any grant funding to cover their full costs.

With more funding into social prescribing delivery we’d be able to offer a much more diverse range of community activities for people to access.

"Ensuring the service is embedded within the system is a key factor for success."

Key factors to achieving successful partnership working

One difficulty we faced (like many others) is that we’d build great relationships with people in our local CCG, then whenever someone moved on (due to staff turnover) we’d have to start that relationship building all over again.

The working relationships on which the service was based became reliant on the individuals involved, rather than being embedded within the system.

How commissioners can improve engagement with the VCSE sector

Something I’d like to see that would improve social prescribing delivery is better engagement from GP surgeries and PCNs with the VCSE sector, and existing social prescribing services.

We’ve had mixed experiences working with local PCNs, and this means it’s a postcode lottery for local patients as to whether they’re offered social prescribing or not. Some surgeries refer their patients to us – others don’t, meaning many people are missing out on our great service that could hugely benefit their health.

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