The concept of Social Prescription has grown in importance in recent years as it has been recognised that many people have both medical needs and social needs. Elderly people, may for example, find themselves isolated in flats in tower blocks or may not be sufficiently mobile to attend GP or hospital appointments.
There are services in most communities that can help people with problems of this kind but how is the person in need to connect with such services? In West London the local Clinical Commissioning Group working in association with AgeUK, recruited a team of Primary Care Navigators who each worked with two or three local GP practices to identify the social needs of patients and ‘navigate’ them to an appropriate service.
The Institute undertook a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the service, assessing whether, for example, patients helped in this way made fewer visits to A&E, undertaking focus groups with the Navigators and interviewing other stakeholders (GPs and their staff, the patients, the service providers and the commissioners).
The patients really valued the service, the GPs valued being able to refer patients to the Navigator and the quantitative evidence demonstrated that the service was decreasing the load on the health service.
There were, however, many issues about the establishment of the role in GP practices: for example, what access was there to patient records, what part should the Navigator plan in multi-disciplinary meetings about patients, what technical system supported the Navigator’s work (none were planned) and in the blurred line between health and social care, what part could and should the Navigator play in health care?
The evaluation report is here.