Patients in GP surgeries across Rhondda are being offered specialist advice on looking after their wellbeing as well as their health.
Lucy Foster has taken up a new role as Community Wellbeing Coordinator to link patients to the many local services which can change lives for the better.
The service signposts patients to help on issues from housing, benefits or finance, to education and learning, employment, training and volunteering.
But it also offers information about mental health issues, healthy and active lifestyles, the arts, music and creativity, befriending, counselling or other support groups.
“I am now based in surgeries across the Rhondda and try to visit them fortnightly, working Mondays to Fridays,” Lucy said. “GPs are able to book an appointment with me for their patients by email but patients can also self refer to me directly.
“In a 10 minute appointment with a GP, it is difficult to examine the wider social issues which may be affecting someone’s health. They may not disclose the real reason for the stress in their life or they might not have all the knowledge of how to deal with it.
“But I have 30 minute slots to chat to people and can also speak to them on the phone.”
There are more than 56 social groups in Rhondda offering support but often people were unaware of the help available, she said.
“I aim to find out what their needs are, what they are interested in, to match them up with something that’s going to make their lives a little bit better.
“Many of my referrals over the last few weeks have concerned loneliness and losing touch with their communities,” said Lucy, who has a background in community development and mental health.
This kind of ‘social prescribing’ has been found to have a string of benefits for patients leading to positive outcomes and improved health.
Those who are feeling lonely or isolated in the community are linked to groups where they can find new friends and like-minded individuals. Others can be helped back into further training and education.
Help with financial problems can also relieve the stress which may be at the root of physical symptoms.
The service gives GPs and health professionals an extra specialist to whom they can refer their patients to provide extra time and support to address the next steps in your life.