Approximately one third of all GP appointments are made by patients who have nothing medically wrong with them. Instead, they want to talk to their doctor about issues such as debt, loneliness and relationship problems.
They can be referred by GPs, practice staff, hospital staff, community nurses, pharmacists, council staff or voluntary workers. In some cases, they will be able to self-refer.
Patients will spend 45 minutes with the community connectors, who will ask questions about themselves, their lifestyles and their problems, and pull together an action plan for them.
They can then be signposted to organisations that can help them improve their fitness through exercise or combat loneliness by finding them friends through new interests. These could include community allotment initiatives or community schemes such as Men’s Sheds and ParkRun.
The groups running such schemes will also have access to ‘community chest’ funding to help them lay on more activities to cope with increased demand.
Community connectors will also be able to access funding if they need to physically take patients to activities and help introduce them to people.
Patients with debt, drug, alcohol or gambling issues, or who want to quit smoking, can be referred to the Citizens Advice Bureau, Turning Point, Alcoholics Anonymous or OneLife Suffolk.
Dr Dean Dorsett, NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group’s Social Prescribing Lead, said: “Your GP isn’t the only person who can help you feel better.
“Taking care of your health involves more than just medicine, and Connect for Health can provide specialist support for non-medical issues that adversely affect people’s health.
“Our community connectors can spend time with you exploring what activities or what support could help improve your health and wellbeing.
“You can talk to them in confidence and they will able to give practical, helpful, non-judgemental advice on a whole host of issues.
“They will be able to help you meet new people and make new friends, access new opportunities, learn new skills and lead healthier and fitter lifestyles.
“This in turn will enable our GPs to devote their time to the patients who need help with actual medical problems.”
Cllr Mark Jepson, East Suffolk Council’s Assistant Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Social prescribing provides support for those who are struggling with issues which are not medical but can still significantly impact on their daily lives.
“The service will also help those who are feeling socially isolated and vulnerable by introducing them to a range of community groups who may be able to help.
“We have seen the benefits of social prescribing elsewhere in East Suffolk and are pleased to see this service made available across the district.”
Old Felixstowe Community Centre, Ferry Road, Felixstowe IP11 9NB – Monday 23rd September from 9.30am to 12.30pm
Michael Burke Wellbeing Centre, Hartismere Hospital, Castleton Way, Eye IP23 7BH – Thursday 26th September from 9.30am to 12.30pm
Riverside Centre, Great Glemham Road, Stratford St Andrew, IP17 1LL – Tuesday 1st October from 9.30am to 12.30pm
Hadleigh Town Hall, The Guildhall, Market Place, Hadleigh IP7 5DN – Thursday 3rd October from 9.30am to 12.30pm
The Mix, 127 Ipswich Street, Stowmarket IP14 1BB – Wednesday 9th October from 9.30am to 12.30pm
Woodbridge Community Hall, Station Road, Woodbridge IP12 4AU – Tuesday 22nd October from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
Download Connect for Health information leaflet