Ways to Wellness adapted to new Covid-19 restrictions and ensured that, through use of remote working, link workers could continue to support vulnerable people throughout 2021.
Ways to Wellness' Chief Executive, Tara Case, left amid widespread admiration for her achievements in leading the organisation since its inception in 2015. During this time our social prescribing service in the West of Newcastle received more than 7,500 referrals.
A survey of WtW link workers found the service had provided critical support to many clients despite many of the services to which they would normally signpost clients being closed or restricted. Digital exclusion was highlighted as a key issue for some clients and WtW staff worked with other public and VCSE sector organisations to address this. The survey also highlighted how many clients were suffering extreme social isolation and the importance of our teams in helping to combat this.
The success of Ways to Wellness in financial terms is highlighted by the final repayment to Bridges Fund Management of the £1.65m Social Impact Bond used to help fund the programme. This was the first time a SIB had been used to fund a health initiative. Additional costs of finance linked to outcome payment achievement and surplus generation have also been paid to the investor.
Reflecting on the six-year anniversary of Ways to Wellness, its Chair, Professor Chris Drinkwater CBE, FRCGP, FFPH(Hon) identifies three key learning points for the NHS, which are:
- Rather than advice from on high what is more often needed in our most disadvantaged areas is a place-based approach to training and employment opportunities for local people along with community capacity building.
- If the NHS is serious about early intervention and prevention and tackling inequalities then it needs to think about longer term investment in new and innovative approaches.
- The NHS needs to think more seriously about using Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) initiatives in developing new ways of tackling the real causes of inequalities in health outcomes.
Sandra Mitchell-Phillips begins work as the new Chief Executive after 11 years heading up ACTES, where she was responsible for successfully steering the organisation from a commissioning body to a well-respected charity delivering innovative programmes in Teesside and Durham.
Sandra has an MBA from Newcastle University and is currently in the final stages of an LLM in Information Rights Law and Practice from Northumbria University. She has worked at a senior level both in the VCSE sector and in the NHS and has considerable experience in working with a wide range of stakeholders.
Ways to Wellness and Newcastle Gateshead CCG agree an expansion of the service, widening the client age group and geographical reach. Development work on two innovative projects is also underway. The first will explore how social prescribing can support children with neuro disability and their families, through a partnership with the Great North Children’s Hospital. The second will pilot a specialist social prescribing service for patients with chronic pain/fatigue.
England’s National Food Strategy, written by Henry Dimbleby, is published with Ways to Wellness one of the organisations that contributed to this far-reaching and significant report. The recommendation to pilot the use of link workers to provide dietary support and motivate them to engage in a personal programme that meets their needs is welcomed.
A report marking the six-year anniversary of Ways to Wellness reveals that of the first 2,888 clients who engaged on the service and were subsequently discharged, 86% improved their wellbeing in at least one domain of wellbeing. The cumulative costs saved in secondary care have been £4.6 million over five years (£1 million net of service delivery and SIB costs).
Research by Newcastle and Durham Universities and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research Programme reveals that Ways to Wellness social prescribing interventions can improve chronic conditions and may help to address health inequalities including improved glycemic control, reducing the public health burden of Type 2 diabetes.
The British Medical Association includes a Ways to Wellness case study in an innovative toolkit for clinicians looking to reduce health inequalities in their area.
His Royal Highness Prince Charles, a long-time advocate of social prescription, meets with those behind the Ways to Wellness service as well as those helped by it during a visit to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s Discovery Museum. The visit generates lots of media interest, including an item on BBC Look North which features a Ways to Wellness client.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association’s northern conference hears about the history of Ways to Wellness, the importance of social prescribing, and what has been achieved in a presentation by Joe Corrigan, Chief Finance and Operating Officer at Newcastle Gateshead CCG, and Dr Guy Pilkington, a GP in the west end of Newcastle.
Ways to Wellness in partnership with the Great North Children’s Hospital begins recruitment for a ground-breaking initiative. The new social prescribing project will support children and young people with neuro disability and their families, helping them to improve their health and wellbeing.