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The SPRING Project

SPRING is a brand new National Lottery funded Social Prescribing project organised by the Healthy Living Centre Alliance (HLCA) & Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing. It has been funded for 3 years initially with extension to 5 depending on outcomes.

• CDRCN is the delivery agent for Down.
• Peninsula Healthy Living Partnership delivers in Ards and North Down
• Clanrye group delivers SPRING in Newry & Mourne
• £5 million for the project from 2018 – 2023 across Scotland & NI
• 3 GP practices in Down District initially – Downpatrick, Newcastle, Saintfield with more signing up to the programme monthly.
• Initial target of 80 patients per annum.

What is Social Prescribing?

  • The provision of non-medical services in the voluntary and community sector
  • The creation and maintenance of referral processes and pathways that enable GPs and other health practitioners to make referrals into such services for individual patients
  • Social prescribing takes a community approach to health and wellbeing rather than looking for a pill to cure all ills.

What is SPRING?

“SPRING” social prescribing helps people 18+ to address social, emotional and practical needs by connecting them to sources of support within their community to improve their own health and wellbeing.

SPRING is a brand new National Lottery funded Social Prescribing project organised by the Healthy Living Centre Alliance (HLCA) & Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing. It has been funded for 3 years initially with extension to 5 depending on outcomes.

The target number of beneficiaries has been doubled to 160 thanks to additional funding from DAERA, who see this as a great way for rural residents to get an improved level of service from their local GP and encourages them to re-engage with their local community.
Nuala McElroy has been employed from January 2019 as the Social Prescriber for Down area working with the GP surgeries in the Down area.

Almost 80 people have benefitted from the programme already in Down. SPRING is also available in Ards and North Down and will be rolled out to Newry & Mourne in summer 2019 through other healthy living centres. A formal referral process is used to refer clients from the GP practice. The “Elemental” Social Prescribing Software tracks the progress of each client from the day they are referred by the GP Team, through the various activities they get involved with, to the day they are signed off and health improvements are measured and evaluated along the way.

Once a referral has been made by the Practice, the Social Prescriber (SP) makes contact with the client to arrange a home visit or at a venue of their choice. These visits can be up to 2 hours which gives the client the opportunity to discuss their needs and anxieties. The SP will refer them to an activity or group in their area and where there is a lack of support services, CDRCN will strive to create a new group/activity to ensure this client’s needs are met. It is a requirement of the SPRING project that each client attends

The Permanent Secretary for Department of Health Richard Pengelly at the launch of SPRING (Social Prescribing) in the Guildhall.

There is a modest sum in the budget for community activity or transport which will be shared with the sector. As well as this being beneficial to the clients, the GPs and Primary Care Health Professionals are finding that SPRING encourages a reduction in reliance on pills, promotes self-management and potentially reduces the demand on some clinical services.

SPRING Social Prescribing also helps people to make healthy choices, strengthen their resilience and stay connected to their communities. It also enables community organisations to respond to the identified needs within the communities they serve.

Multi-Disciplinary Teams

It is well documented that our GP practices and the local primary care system has been under immense pressure in recent years as the number of doctors decline and demand increases. Rural areas have been particularly hardest hit.

In response GPs have organised themselves into “GP Federations” and have worked with the Department of Health and the local Health and Social Care Trusts to create a new way of working and seek investment to that end.

In late 2018, the South Eastern Trust and the Down GP federation invited CDRCN and others to join them in a bid for funding to the new “Multi- Disciplinary Team” (MDT) programme funded initially by the confidence and supply money. This bid was successful and work began to recruit a big team of physiotherapists, community nurses, social workers and mental health workers to meet the demand from the local population.

CDRCNs task was to:

  • Consult with the community sector in Down from Jan to March 2019.

  • Encouraged buy-in from the community in Down and recorded their concerns and presented those to MDT.

  • Simultaneously launched SPRING in Down and have handled over 70 referrals to date (Feb to August 2019).

  • We continue to engage with local groups and promote the MDT concept.

This has been a huge challenge for the network and we have risen to the task. Community partners have helped us to understand the pressures which will be created on volunteers and groups as the MDT seeks solutions for patients in the wider community. The network is confident that additional resources will be released by autumn 2019 to help us to create many new activities and interventions in local community centres and other places.

Ultimately CDRCN hopes that social prescribing and the new MDTs will help the local community sector to grow and strengthen to meet the new health challenges and tackle health inequalities.

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