The Joy of Local

One of the areas where we could make an improvement is on GP websites.  Many but not all of the GP websites for surgeries local to me have a very helpful-looking ‘Wellbeing Centre’ button on their homepage, and when you click through to this space, there is a “community groups” option.  

So my question is therefore:  could the information about “local” organisations be up-to-date and truly not?  In the borough where I work it is not.  A mother in the poorer part of the borough is unlikely to have the nerve or money to turn up at an up-market baby & toddler group at the other, richer end of the borough.  And reading this, I’m irritated because I happen to know there’s a fabulous baby group run in a community space not 10 minutes away on foot from this surgery, where a local newcomer would be made to feel very welcome.  

I venture to add that looking at the identical & not very useful “community groups” information, that this is the product if “lazy AI-tis” on the part of the surgeries.  

Could GPs, or their Practice Business Managers or digital partners work in partnership with local VCSE infrastructure bodies to ensure that each GP surgery lists truly local and useful information for patients seeking help?  If the same mechanism were also available to those in Social Care and Children’s Services in the local Council then that would cut down a lot of officer work currently spent trying to keep all the differently-owned directories up to date.  It would, after all, enable some people to find their own solutions, rather than go on to book an appointment with a GP.  And of course it would reduce the number of people who actually make it through to see a GP face to face and this does rather seem to be a currently popular and important KPI. 

Further, it would make even more sense to ensure that all the Social Prescribers or Link Workers also had access to information about local groups that can help – ideally from THE SAME excellent, local sources.  If we could only line up all our ducks in the same line.  Right now they do seem rather to be quacking in disarray. 

How do we best keep the Social Prescribers updated with what local groups have to offer? If they are using the GP websites to find this out then clearly they are neither up-to-date nor locally relevant. 

I understand they use various software systems that they use for notes etc (compliant with data protection) on which a directory of local groups etc can be maintained  .  I have not been able to find out how, when and how often, that directory is checked and updated, by whom, and whether the information is quality assured.  

Social Prescribers in Croydon (some) use ‘Simply Connect’ to find out about local groups and activities.  And others in Croydon use ‘Joy’. 

You can have a look at these:

You can have a look at the Access Group (which seems to dominate the digital software for community health market) comparison of the various sites.  I haven’t done this. Life is too short. 

The best way to keep people fit and active is to keep them connected and enjoying the activities they go to.  Motivated to go to the activities and to keep on going to the activities. On the whole, they are more likely do this, to find motivation to do this, if they can easily get to a local group. And as many will know, and others are finding out, there is HEAPS going on locally, micro-locally, even in the wilds of places like Pollards Hill.  And as a rule, local will mean cheaper or free, familiar, a place where they might find people they know, or make friendships that are easier to maintain. 

This means that the argument for GP surgeries and Social Prescribers to all be using a continuously updated locally populated digital tool to find the best activities and hobbies etc for people to stay active and well with, becomes not just compelling but imperative and VERY cost-effective.  If one then puts the onus on the groups themselves to keep the information stored on whatever platform the SPs and GPs are using updated, then that cuts out a whole load of admin too.  And for smaller groups, a local infrastructure organisation could assist with a digital inclusion outreach programme.  But by default, the onus would be on the local groups, with clear instructions how to so this.

I really don’t mind which digeridoo gadget is used to achieve this, but we must somehow, both make the most of, and support, those little and bigger community groups and movements that are really the best solution to people leading healthier lives. 

(I think there’s probably lots of back-end stuff, data protection protocol etc, but if we are listing activities that people can book on, then it is possible to do that in such a way that the personal data is not collectively stored on the same system.  Eg I book for an activity that is listed on an Activity Finder and my personal details for the booking are recorded on eg the Eventbrite site, ie not within the app.  Others will be more expert than me but I think that’s the basics of today’s tech possibilities.)

We would then be on a much more level playing field, and one from which we might more effectively argue for more equitable funding for those groups and services providing the support and activities that people who receive a social prescription may want to do.  And that is my main beef.  It would be much easier to spot and make the case for this or that group’s effectiveness and therefore make a strong case for it to receive NHS funding, if everyone in the game could see everyone else and the impact they were having.  And actually, some people wouldn’t even need the Social Prescribers because they would cut out that middle layer and go straight to the ‘find me a group that offers something I want to do’ stage.  Voila!  No GP appointment.  No SP appointment.  Healthier people for half the cost. 

That, my friends, would be the elusive beast known as “co-creation”.  

I welcome comments but please don’t just silently steal my good idea.  That has happened before.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the Blog Post author.