Ways to Wellness, that has delivered remarkable success to people living with chronic health conditions, has attracted Royal attention.

During a visit to Discovery Museum in Newcastle today (Tuesday 9th November), His Royal Highness Prince Charles will meet the team behind the social prescribing initiative Ways to Wellness, which has delivered remarkable success to people living in the west end of the city.

Through GP referral, Ways to Wellness sees specialist link workers engage with clients to find out and tackle the root causes of their symptoms. Often it can be factors such as unemployment, overweight, debt, addiction, poor diet, poor housing that are causing the ill health.

Out of nearly 3,000 clients who have engaged with the service and have subsequently been discharged, 86% show improvement in well-being.

Analysis has shown the secondary care cost per patient for the Ways to Wellness cohort was 27% lower than the comparison cohort. In one year alone this equated to a saving of £1.56 million as well as freeing up GP time to deal with other patients.

The results of the trial are so impressive it has now attracted further funding and is to be extended to the East End of Newcastle. The age range is being widened to 30-74 to take in more clients and hopefully resolve at an earlier stage and it's now going to be trialled in specialist areas of child neurological conditions (in partnership with the Great North Children’s Hospital) and patients with persistent chronic pain symptoms.

Prince Charles, a long-time advocate of social prescription, met with those behind the service as well as those helped by it during a visit to the Discovery Museum.

They included Emma Zaki and Kim Swift, both of whom have received support from Ways to Wellness.

Emma, 56, was referred to Ways to Wellness by her GP after a move to Newcastle for personal reasons left her depressed, lonely, and socially isolated. She received emotional and practical support and recently applied to become a link worker with WtW.

Emma says: “Ways to Wellness have made such a positive impact on my life that I would now like to use my experience to help others who may be struggling like I was.”

Kim Swift, 53, was also referred by her GP after stress caused by her personal life resulted in depression which she describes as the “worst I have ever experienced.” She received a range of support including help accessing learning courses and now has achieved an NVQ Level 2 in Maths and English.

Kim says: “I am hoping to find work and generally I now feel much more settled in my life. If it hadn’t been for Ways to Wellness, I am not sure I would still be here today, so I am so grateful for everything they have done for me.”

In a recent article published in the Future Healthcare Journal, Prince Charles said: “Social prescription enables medicine to go beyond pills and procedures and to recognise the enormous health impact of the lives we lead and the physical and social environment within which we live.”

Ways to Wellness Chief Executive, Sandra Mitchell-Phillips said: “Prince Charles has long recognised the vital role that social prescribing can play in helping people to tackle the root causes of their health problems. Overcoming these causes boosts the wellbeing of the patient, allowing them to improve their quality of life and, crucially, removes the need to constantly visit a GP.”

Keith Merrin, Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “It is wonderful to welcome Prince Charles to Discovery Museum as part of his visit to the North-East and to be part of an event to promote the excellent work that is taking place in our area around supporting communities and social prescribing.”

The Ways to Wellness service is funded from various pots including Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group, The National Lottery Community Fund and a Social Impact Bond (SIB).

Under the SIB, backers put forward money for investment in social initiatives and this money is repaid if the initiative proves successful (in this case improved patient wellbeing and cost avoidance for the NHS). Ways to Wellness has proven so successful the entire £1m plus SIB has been repaid. Also, original funders Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group have funded a continuation and extension.

Discovery is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums whose Culture, Health and Community staff help deliver targeted programmes informed by local public health data and devised to support communities of high need in Tyne and Wear.