Dr Mohan Sekeram shares the importance of health and wellbeing benefiting social prescribing, which has just become available in all GP practices across Merton.
My name is Dr Mohan Sekeram and I am a GP at Wideway Medical practice in the east of the borough. I am also the Clinical Lead for social prescribing for Merton Clinical Commissioning Group. I am really pleased to announce that from January 2020, social prescribing is available in ALL GP practices across Merton.
What is social prescribing? Many factors affect patients’ health and wellbeing. Some of these factors are social factors which if not rectified will manifest as physical symptoms such as a headache, rash or joint pains. When patients see their GP these ‘physical symptoms’ may get ‘medically ‘ treated but the underlying root cause ‘social problem’ still remains. Social prescribing sees link workers take referrals from GPs, before spending time with patients, offering emotional support and connecting them to community groups. The needs of these patients have a non-medical root cause and link workers help tackle these issues with non-medical solutions.
Patients referred to social prescribing are commonly struggling with mental health issues and long-term physical conditions. Difficulty with financial management – which can be a huge source of anxiety for many people – is also a common reason for people being referred. Our work in Merton showed that over three quarters (77%) of the patients reported improved health and wellbeing.
Additionally, alongside patient benefits, there was a marked reduction in service use; GP appointments were reduced by a third (33%), and A&E visits halved.
I have seen first-hand how the encouragement and support patients receive from link workers has helped them to feel more empowered and resilient. My experience of using social prescribing as an approach to solve issues, particularly around mental health, underlines the importance of looking at problems holistically and using non-medical options, and reinforces the view that a medical response is not always needed.
Here in Merton, we came up with the slogan ‘Don’t medicalise… socialise’ to highlight these opportunities. It is important to include voluntary sector organisations in the journey and identify where support will be required. We are social animals and need to connect with our community to prevent isolation.
I am working with Lady Wimbledon to help support the health and wellbeing of our community in Merton. We have real opportunity ahead and this year #mertoncan aims to get Merton residents more active to help with their mental health and wellbeing.
Written By: Mohan Sekeram, General Practioner | MRCGP, MBBS, Bsc ( Hons )
Dr Mohan Sekeram GP Lead for Social Prescribing, Merton CCG Mohan is the Clinical Lead for Social Prescribing for Merton and Wandsworth CCGs. Mohan has been working as a GP for over 10 years in East Merton. He led on the development and implantation of the Merton Model of Social Prescribing which aims to address the social determinants of health. This model has resulted in significant reductions in GP and Accident and Emergency attendances, and has demonstrated a positive impact on patient measures of wellbeing. Mohan is passionate about harnessing the opportunities in the local community and wants to ensure the local voluntary sector receives adequate support to help empower them and build resilience. He grew up in South West London and in his spare time enjoys many types of exercise and is a keen AFC Wimbledon fan.