GPs and health professionals are now able to refer south and east Leeds patients to groups that run social classes in a bid to boost health and wellbeing.
The new Connect for Health scheme, funded by NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is being delivered by a group of local charities led by Leeds Mind.
Aimed at tackling isolation, improving wellbeing and helping people to manage long-term conditions, the project also allows people registered with a GP to refer themselves through a new website and phone line.
Free schemes like Connect for Health, sometimes referred to as ‘social prescribing’, can see patients find local support through everything from walking groups and dance classes to cooking workshops, social groups and even debt advice.
Dr Lesley Freeman, the CCG’s clinical lead for elderly care and a GP at Rothwell’s Marsh Street Surgery, explained that community groups and activities can make a positive difference to patients’ health and wellbeing.
She continued: “In the past, GPs haven’t always had the in-depth knowledge, or resources, to explore these opportunities and make the referrals for our patients.
“The Connect for Health service will help solve those issues – enabling us to utilise the support in our local community much easier.”
Dr Freeman added that referring patients to social groups will become part of a patients’ overall health care – just like traditional prescriptions for medication.
Helen Kemp, chief executive of Leeds Mind, said: “We are looking forward to working with local people to enable them to manage their health conditions better.”
The scheme is based on similar projects that have proven effective in places like Bradford and Rotherham in recent years.
Visit www.connectforhealthleeds.org.uk or call 0113 3876380 for details.