This year we’ve been celebrating the NHS’s 70th anniversary but it’s also a reminder we need to think radically differently about how our health and care services support people, focusing on the whole person – their life and circumstances – not just treating their illness.
This is our focus in Greater Manchester. We‘re committed to genuinely person and community-centred approaches supporting wider health and wellbeing. We work in close partnership with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, so community-based support and activities align with health and care support. Key features of this approach are:
- Listening to what matters to me: health and care professionals really listening and understanding an individual’s life circumstances, goals, motivations, interests and strengths. This means we can bring together care and treatment with support a person can draw from family, friends, carers and their community.
- Solutions that are more than medicine: Social prescribing can be an alternative or addition to traditional medication which aids recovery by matching people with non-clinical support services such as befriending schemes, physical activities, social clubs, housing and debt support and much more. GPs, nurses, social workers and other health and care professionals can all make referrals.
- Designing my own support: People managing their personal budgets helps secure co-ordinated, personal support for people with ongoing, and often more complex, care and support needs. It means people can co-design the support they need to keep them healthy, well and independent and makes the most of family and community support.
- Recognising the strength of communities: a strong and vibrant voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, which connects people with their communities is essential. Community-based activities, which promote self-care and improve health and wellbeing, are largely delivered by VCSE organisations and community groups. They can bring people together and combat isolation, either through befriending arrangements or as part of larger groups. There’s plenty of evidence that approaches like social prescribing really work, both in improving people’s wider health and wellbeing, but also reduces their need to see a GP or other health and care professionals as often. This improves the lives of Greater Manchester residents and takes pressure off our hard-pressed health and care services. There are many great examples of this is happening right now across Greater Manchester, where social prescribing is helping connect people with excellent community activities and support.
Our ambition is that this becomes the norm everywhere, not just an option in some areas; that GPs, nurses, social workers and other health and care professionals right across Greater Manchester are routinely able to help people with their non-clinical needs by connecting them with community groups and organisations that can help, as easily as they might prescribe medication, refer for specialist treatment or organise a social care package.
The purpose of our event on 19 July – Communities at the heart of health and wellbeing – is to celebrate the progress we are already making in Greater Manchester, learn from each other and further afield, but most importantly to inspire us to continue striving for a better approach to health and wellbeing. Join us in the conversation on twitter at #communitywellbeing
Social prescribing, personal budgets and other person and community-centred approaches need to be at the heart of all health and care services, working hand in glove with the VCSE, so that when we stand here in five years’ time – celebrating the next big NHS anniversary – we can say we truly have a system that supports health and wellbeing and addresses the wider health influences as well as it treats illness.