Bulletin no. 12 13 November 2014

Ways to Wellness – a new approach to long term conditions in Newcastle

Welcome to the 12th Bulletin for the Ways to Wellness Project. The Bulletin assumes that readers are already familiar with the Ways to Wellness Project, so if you are not already aware of our work then please refer to the FAQs and the first 11 Bulletins, which tell the story so far.

A message from Chris Drinkwater, Executive Chair

“In the bright days when Ways to Wellness first set off in January 2013 we planned a launch date for April 2014. This has gradually slipped backwards and it is immensely frustrating to have to announce a further postponement to April 2015. In addition, sadly, we will also be losing our pilot, Sandra King. Sandra has been tireless in building momentum and driving the project forward and is equally frustrated about not being able to see the project to completion. The reason for all of this is that we have run out of funds because we underestimated the difficulties in surmounting complex NHS information governance requirements and in getting to the stage where we could sign contracts for seven years. The cartoon below reflects how we have sometimes felt.

The good news is that we have held some funds back so that she can return to brief the new CEO when appointed and she will certainly be coming back for the launch party. It is also clear from the political landscape that social prescribing is moving up the agenda. I recently attended a meeting at 10 Downing Street with the PMs Health Adviser and the Secretary of State’s Health Adviser to discuss social prescribing in general practice. Three key issues were discussed:

1.The need for a much greater focus on addressing the social determinants of ill health in order to improve health outcomes and to address inequalities in health.

2.Social prescribing as a vehicle for reducing demand on currently overstretched general practices.

3.Social prescribing as a vehicle for supporting people with long term conditions to take control and to improve the quality of their lives.

These are all issues which Ways to Wellness is designed to address. The recent publication of Simon Stevens NHS – Five Year Forward Review broadly supports this direction of travel. Chapter 2, about a new relationship with patients and communities, talks about the need for more support for people to manage their own health and about stronger partnerships with charitable and voluntary sector organisations, key objectives for Ways to Wellness.

I am confident that we are nearly there and that we will launch in April 2015, in the meantime, a big thank you to Sandra for all her hard work. The best present that we can give her is to get the show on the road.”

Chris Drinkwater, Executive Chair, Ways to Wellness Ltd

Recent Highlights

Newcastle West CCG Time Out – Ways to Wellness held two workshops at this event in October to introduce the Ways to Wellness service to the Primary Care staff. Over 50 staff attended our workshops, with a good mix of GPs, Practice Nurses and Practice Managers. There was a very positive response to Ways to Wellness from participants, many of whom were hearing about the service for the first time. The four provider organisations also attended, so they were able to start to build relationships with the practices in their allocated “cluster”. One GP hearing about the service for the first time said “I just think this sounds brilliant!”.

Patient Engagement and Communications - we had a really useful and positive workshop to look at design, terminology and case studies for patient leaflets etc. We had a mix of managers and linkworkers from the 4 providers and two people who had experienced social prescribing. We tackled the issues of language from the point of view of terminology (whether or not to use “patient” and “social prescribing”) and also from the point of view of language barriers for people whose first language is not English.

For both the patients who took part, the experience of social prescribing had been life changing and reminded us why a service such as Ways to Wellness is needed and can make such a difference. The first person has long term conditions and was struggling with his mental health, he talked about how the social element had made such a difference for him, social prescribing was “the start of a journey”. He talked about the importance of having people to talk to, outside of friends and family, who experience and understand what you are going through. The second person had been depressed, overweight, has arthritis and during a review of his diabetes at the GPs one of the tests indicated that he had had a heart attack. This shocked him into action. He is 9 months into social prescribing, feels loads better, has made friends, lost 2 stone in weight, has been on a cookery course and regaled us all with his cooking skills and top tips for eating healthily on a budget. Inspired by his progress, his wife has also started coming along and has lost a stone.

On-going development work since August

Contracting – we have set up weekly conference calls between Ways to Wellness, Bridges Ventures, Newcastle West CCG and North of England Commissioning Support. We are making steady progress, but it is taking longer than anyone had anticipated. As the first Social Impact Bond type model in health, we are breaking a lot of ground and fitting this model into the standard 80 page NHS Contract is proving challenging!

Provider set up days – the four providers who are being contracted to deliver the social prescribing intervention have met together twice now, to look at areas of joint interest and to start to build strong partnerships needed to work together once the service goes live. These have been positive meetings with a lot of energy and goodwill to really make this work well.

Ways to Wellness Foundation – we have incorporated a Foundation to act as the parent company of Ways to Wellness. The Foundation will be the beneficial owner of the trading company and will hold the Ways to Wellness brand and intellectual property. It will also be responsible for disseminating best practice with respect to social prescribing and also to support the possible extension of the Ways to Wellness delivery model of social prescribing into new areas.

Ongoing Development Tasks – ongoing work continues to ensure we are ready to go live with the new service. This includes communications, developing the evaluation framework, website development, Board meetings etc.

Sandra King – Project Director, on behalf of the Ways to Wellness Ltd Board.

If you would like the bulletin in another format, please contact us.