DOCTORS in Flintshire are being encouraged to refer patients who don’t require medication to a service designed to help people experiencing social issues such as loneliness.

“Social prescribing” is aimed at assisting individuals to find suitable social activities to improve their health and wellbeing.

Flintshire Council has been working with local volunteers and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to develop a service in the county following similar schemes being launched elsewhere in the UK.

About 200 referrals were received between April and the end of September this year, more than half of which were related to isolation.

The local authority said one of the main ways people had accessed support was via self-referral.

It is now trying to persuade more health professionals to get involved by referring patients.

In a report, chief officer for social services Neil Ayling said: “A social prescribing service provides a model of support for those who are not able to access community level support and where their needs are more complex.

“(It) is also intended to support GPs and others who may, through contact with members of the public know that they have practical, emotional or other needs which they cannot meet but are affecting quality of life.

“Having a quality assured, accessible service for those patients is increasingly recognised as a necessary part of a robust system for health and social care.

“A specific focus of activity since the summer of 2019 has been to increasingly promote the service to GPs and other primary care professionals working across the county.

“This has required work and discussion to create referral pathways and processes for this purpose.”

In some cases, patients can be referred for activities such as exercise groups and art classes.

The council said it was also witnessing an increasing demand in people requesting support with financial issues, with numbers rising from six per cent in 2018/2019 to 46 per cent during the most recent six-month period.

There are currently two full time employees working as part of the service at a cost of around £63,000, who are assisted by members of the Flintshire Local Voluntary Council .

Despite praising the success of the scheme, Mr Ayling said funding was an area of risk.

He added: “Funding for the social prescribing workforce is achieved through a number of elements; the integrated care fund, primary care funding and a contribution from us.

“All elements are therefore funded on a short-term basis which is a challenge to be managed.

“As a Public Service Board priority, there is ongoing assessment of the service and impact, with opportunities taken to raise the issue of sustainability being kept high on the agenda for all organisations represented.”

The work carried out by the service will be discussed at a meeting of Flintshire Council’s social and health care scrutiny committee on Thursday, (NOVEMBER 14, 2019) where councillors will be asked to help spread awareness.