Social prescribers fight health inequalities | #TeamBartsHealth blogs

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Social prescribers fight health inequalities

Merged photo of social prescribers Remi and Maisha

We chatted to social prescribers Remi and Maisha about the work they’re doing to support patients struggling to access things like food, housing and financial advice. 

Working with heart attack patients

 A headshot picture of Remi, social prescriber at St Bartholomew'sHello, I’m Remi (pictured right), a social prescriber working in the cardiovascular prevention team on the heart attack pathway. 

More than a quarter of the patients I see have difficulties meeting their basic needs at the end of the month. 

This is a significant proportion of patients. Getting better and healthier following heart problems is difficult enough, let alone when you’re also grappling with unemployment, food poverty and worrying about how you're going to pay your bills.

My role is to provide non-medical social support to those post-surgery. I connect them to services which might be able to support them with housing advice, debt, physical exercise, employment, access to food and more. 

I support individuals for up to six sessions over the phone. Sometimes, this also includes meeting patients at their local library which often doubles as a location they can receive advice and guidance from other services which are based there.  

I've also referred people to psychological therapy services, for social care needs assessments, weight management programmes including exercise on referral and to local food banks where food access may be an issue. 

Some of these things may seem simple but just giving these patients an extra layer of support can make a huge difference - not only in how quickly they recover but also in keeping them well for longer. 

Supporting people on dialysis  

 A headshot picture of Maisha, social prescriber at The Royal LondonHello! I’m Maisha Ahmed (pictured right) and I am the healthy living advisor at The Royal London Hospital Dialysis Unit.

I support patients who have newly started dialysis, to navigate their healthcare and a smooth transition into their treatment. 

Barts Health is one of the largest renal services in the UK. Three quarters of our patients live in the most deprived areas.

My role includes triaging patients and signposting and referring them to relevant support services.

Having Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) has physical, psychosocial (the influence of social factors on a person’s mind or behaviour), and financial consequences.

Did you know, around 80% of what makes up someone’s health is determined by things outside the hospital?

Social determinants have the largest impact. These are factors such as economic stability, education, and the amount of social support. Health behaviours and lifestyle choices are also important, determining around 30% of your health outcomes. For example, whether you smoke and the amount of exercise you do. In a nutshell, patients need additional support, on top of receiving lifelong treatment and medical care, to improve their quality of life and to reduce the risk of other complications. 

In my career so far, I have helped patients access mental health support, food banks, financial and housing support as well addressing social, physical, and medical needs. 

All dialysis patients on our unit are screened to assess whether they could benefit from social prescribing. Out of 131 patients screened between September to December 2023:

  • 27% reported financial insecurity
  • 14% reported food insecurity
  • 9% reported housing insecurity in the last two months. 

I saw three quarters of these patients myself. This means they benefited from either simple advice, signposting to relevant services or an onward referral to another service. 10% of patients needed referral to a food bank, and most patients required dietary input to help stick to a renal specific diet. 

Financial support was the second most common need. These patients have been supported through applying for benefits as well as signposting to grants for kidney patients. 

By addressing these social determinants of health, we can improve health outcomes and provide a much more personalised care offering. In doing so, we can empower patients to manage their own health and wellbeing and improve their quality of life.  


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