Social Prescribing Link Worker workforce strategy and development

Background


The Black Country and West Birmingham (BCWB) Integrated Care System is an integrated health and care system dedicated to building healthier, happier communities by providing sustainable health services and high-quality valued staff. The BCWB Training Hub intends to improve patient outcomes by investing in those providing care and supporting sustainability.

Problem


In February 2021, the BCWB Training Hub collaborated with Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLWs) at a co-design event. The event’s goal was to discuss future opportunities and development for primary care professionals. The BCWB sought additional collaboration and resource sharing to create a SPLW program across the STP. The co-design event identified a gap in Social Prescribing involvement in strategic and operational leadership across PCNs. Attendees shared the need to raise awareness of SPLW as a viable career option. With additional development opportunities, the perception of SPLW was expected to become more attractive. In a brainstorm session to identify development opportunities, SPLW and BCWB identified the following themes:

  •  Share and Development Network Forum
  • Support for  Supervision/Peer Support
  • Share Best Practices
  • Clarify and Recognise the SPLW role

BCWB sought NALW’s expertise to bring this vision to life.


Solution


NALW’s experience as a professional membership organisation and expertise in social prescribing link worker workforce development provided the necessary advice, support, and guidance to collaborate with BCWB. This included strategic support, and ambassador programme development. We provided access to professional supervision/CPD/peer support/recognition/best practice sharing through the NALW membership package. This package also provided career development opportunities.

NALW and BCWB worked together to develop the Social Prescribing Link Worker Ambassador role to fill the need for strategic input, development, the attractiveness of the role, and additional peer support.

The ambassador’s role is to also support the training and development of SPLWs across Black Country and West Birmingham PCNs by providing advice and guidance on projects involving the SPLW workforce. NALW provided coaching, training, and support to the ambassador to prepare for this role.

Impact

BCWB Training Hub is now able to provide additional support to social prescribing link workers within the ICS to aid professional development and retention. The Training Hub Coordinator at BCWB says, “[NALW has] gone above and beyond expectations including a big emphasis on networking, clinical supervision, online peer group mentoring, and allowing delegates to maximise their learning and development.” NALW’s efforts have created a readily available, self-paced training resource and professional supervision for SPLWs.


A social prescribing link worker who recently joined NALW’s professional plus membership shares a positive experience thus far with the program: “I have met another local link worker who asked a question about working with hard to reach/migrant groups. I emailed the Link worder, we bounced ideas, and are now in regular contact to support and reflect, as well as fill gaps in our knowledge.” This comprehensive membership (now professional plus) connects healthcare professionals and empowers them to foster new connections and advance in their professional development as well as access to training.

The ambassadors’ support will help celebrate the SPLW profession and demonstrate its value to primary care. NALW provided insight in the development of this ambassador programme, empowering the BCWB to launch this program with confidence, adopting NALW’s best practice suggestions.

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There is an ever-increasing evidence base for the success of social prescribing and its impact on reducing social inequality. More and more NHS and statutory bodies are embracing social prescribing and committing resources to it, that is why Christiana believes that those who are passionate about social change should join the social prescribing movement.
Not only will they be able to champion social causes, but they will be able to channel their energy and talent into achieving better health outcomes for others.

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