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Social prescribing

A special service aimed at helping local people who are feeling lonely or struggling to cope is being promoted across Reading to highlight the wide range of activities available to improve health and wellbeing.

The Social Prescribing Service, run by Reading Voluntary Action (RVA) and Age UK Berkshire, has been set up to encourage people over 18 to get out and about, meet new people and try activities taking place in their communities.

Sarah Morland, Partnership Manager at RVA said: “We see a great variety of people, they may be carers, have a physical or mental health problem or just feel lonely. The one thing they have in common is that some aspect of their life is impacting on their wellbeing.

“They may be worried about benefits, need practical help, be struggling to understand the role of different agencies or want to find social activities that match their interests.

“We can signpost them to a wide range of voluntary and community services such as advice agencies, support groups, physical activities, social clubs, hobbies and interests,” she added.

Dozens of local people have benefitted from Social Prescribing, which is funded by Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Reading Borough Council. People have to be referred to the Service by their GP.

Patricia, in her 70s, was referred by her GP for support with diet and exercise and has tried out Tai Chi, yoga, walking and mindfulness. She was also given advice about her financial situation and signposted to local advice agencies. Patricia said: “the appointment was really useful and gave me choices I had not thought about before”.

Neil, in his 30s, was referred for support with confidence, social contact and mental wellbeing. He didn’t feel confident enough to contact agencies suggested by the Social Prescribers, so they did it for him. Neil said: “I cannot speak highly enough of how helpful this was. I left the appointment with a great sense of achievement and hope”.

Sofia, in her late 50s, is housebound because of poor physical health and has frequent hospital admissions. She was struggling to keep on top of household tasks and felt lonely. The Social Prescriber took her to a support group where she enjoyed the companionship and activities. She now attends regularly with help from a volunteer transport service. She also has weekly visits from a volunteer befriender and they play Scrabble together.

Daniel, in his mid-60s, has poor mobility and long term health problems. His wife died last year and he was anxious about going out and struggled with form filling and financial matters. He and his wife did everything together and he wanted to meet new people but found it difficult with his low mood. He has had help from a local advice agency to access universal credit and was supported to go to a men’s hobby group which he now attends regularly. He’s also just enjoyed two short breaks in the UK and abroad.

Dr Doon Lovett, who is based at Tilehurst Surgery, said: “When I first heard about the Social Prescribing Service I immediately felt it would play an important part in delivering holistic care to my patients, and indeed it has.

“A significant amount of people we see with low mood, anxiety and symptoms such as feeling non-specifically unwell, are driven by loneliness and isolation and are best helped by a ‘social prescribing’ approach.

“As a surgery we have been involved with the project since 2015 and I am delighted that its value has been recognised and is being promoted/rolled out as a main stream intervention,” she added.

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If you need medical help and are unsure what to do, call NHS 111 for help and advice. They are available 24 hours a day.