Lucy Holmes, Primary Care Wirral Health & Wellbeing Operations Manager, explains how non-clinical support from Wellbeing Practitioners (Link Workers) and Health Coaches is helping Wirral practices lower pressure on clinical staff and allow patients access the holistic care they need during Covid-19.
*This article was originally featured in Edition 6 of the Best Practice Bulletin
The challenges generated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have moved attention towards how lifestyle medicine can help reduce pressure on NHS Primary Care services.
The increased demands on workloads and staffing levels have forced a major rethink in how we organise and facilitate care provision, but also in what care should consist of.
The negative impact of practical, emotional and non-clinical issues has risen to greater importance during a testing time for us all.
1 in 4 GP appointments are non-medical and with patients needing urgent support we have provided a focused arm of help via our newly created team of Wellbeing Practitioners -Social Prescribing Link Workers- (Network Contract DES additional role).
With over 4000 referrals since March 2020, Wellbeing Practitioners have proven to be a fundamental piece of the puzzle in facilitating holistic patient care and reducing the strain on clinical staff.
Wellbeing Practitioners have become a much-needed listening ear for Wirral during Covid-19, offering non-clinical care across a wide range of areas and signposting patients to relevant agencies/specialists where needed.
Access to non-clinical support is easing the pressure on Primary Care staff, providing patients with vital person-centric support which asks ‘what matters to you?’, as opposed to ‘what is the matter?’.
Our team have helped people experiencing practical concerns over rent arrears, debt, prescriptions and food access, as well as emotional and mental health support over issues with anxiety, depression and isolation.
In preparation for the upcoming second wave of coronavirus we have reinforced our Health & Wellbeing team with Health Coaches (also Network Contract DES additional role) who will concentrate on the recovery of Wirral.
Most people who have really suffered from Covid-19 had underlying health conditions caused by sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles.
Our team of Health Coaches are helping people with low levels of physical activity and excess weight embrace healthier habits to reduce risks of developing long-term conditions, and encourage them to take regular NHS Health Checks.
As Wellbeing Practitioners, Health Coaches are part of the GP practice and work alongside clinical-roles complementing medical care and ensuring patients receive the best holistic care.
Covid-19 has proven health and wellbeing are substantially overlooked, but has provided an opportunity to develop lifestyle medicine services which contribute to the de-medicalisation of Primary Care.
Lifestyle medicine gives patients access to faster and better care and represents a long-term investment to the community as it encourages people to live happier, healthier and independent lives.
Lucy Holmes, PCW Health & Wellbeing Operations Manager