Doctor, it hurts when I do this….

As Tommy Cooper would reply, “well then, don’t do it.” If life was that simple. Getting to see your GP presents the an increasing challenge. Where I live it takes 5 weeks. There are new large housing developments being constructed with more planned and no more GP surgeries. In fact, a surgery 2 miles away has just closed, as they don’t have enough doctors. The Telegraph reported an average 13 days wait and without urgent action, waits will quickly soar to “several weeks” the British Medical Association (BMA) warned. I think we are already there. Even a telephone consultation can be weeks away.

In such circumstances, the default for patients is evidenced by packed A&E departments; something now common place. More funding will help, but that is not the only solution as pressure will continue to grow unless the NHS look beyond their own doors. Doctors, like Teachers and may I suggest police officers are seen as people within the community who serve not only in their respective roles but more commonly as someone to confide in. They can be trusted, when all else fails, they will help and not judge. I think doctors are the most likely now to be the communities “agony aunt.” The police service has faced drastic cuts reducing a presence on the street and teachers are, if anything, needing the services of doctors themselves as they stress over Ofsted and catastrophic curriculum changes imposed by Mr Gove!

Public sector services are in the limelight this week relating to pay and a 1% cap. For decades Public Enquiries have highlighted failings within the “system” where information had not been shared, information missed or shortcomings in a duty of care. Slowly it seems public sector agencies such as Police, Fire, Social services and Schools work collaboratively together to ensure a “joined up approach.” I don’t list Health as in my experience the service is in a never ending internal spiral of restructuring and a changing of staff. Most would agree that money and mental health are inter-linked. Mind put make the case very well on their website. Debt, unemployment, housing issues and associated relationship breakdowns generate stress and anxiety. This leads to a dysfunctional lifestyle and more of the same. You may well be aware of the Liverpool advice on prescription project. Led by Liverpool CCG and Liverpool Citizens Advice this project has seen:

· An improvement of client health and wellbeing of 80%

· 60% of clients had never used advice services

· 30% of clients received case management support

· £10m has been gained as additional income for vulnerable clients

Other research by Citizens Advice shows that 19% of GPs time is spent discussing non-health matters. Read the report here…

I have been trying for two years now to find someone in the health sector to engage with us about the potential benefits of social prescribing; Strategic Transformation Programme leads, Director of Public Health and even my own doctor!! All I need is for a willingness for a health partner to just get on with it; which is what impressed me about the Liverpool experience, it was led by the head of the CCG; much like a social entrepreneur. A good example of this a social entrepreneur is Lord Andrew Mawson, who I heard as a guest speaker at a conference a few years ago. He is quite something. Years ago, he arrived in a run down church the east end of London as a young vicar and did something to change the way things were. You can see for yourself what he has achieved.

You can read more about Lord Mawson here. The approach is simple, bring people together who want to change things, agree how and get on with it.

As seen in Liverpool, 60% of clients referred to Citizens Advice by surgeries had not used advice services before; they were booking appointments with their doctor to act as their very own local Mary Poppins. There is a better way. As Rushmoor Citizens Advice lead the Health and Wellbeing project, let’s hope that we have partners, especially in the health sector that just want to get on with it and look for innovative ways to make things happen. Only then will clients holistic needs be met and ultimately the health service is able to deal promptly with health needs; whilst enabling partners to do what they do best.

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