Larter Consulting undertook a scoping study for Latrobe Health Assembly to inform introduction of a social prescribing program in Latrobe Valley.
Latrobe Health Assembly
The Latrobe Health Assembly is a community-led organisation that seeks to positively shape and facilitate new ways of working to improve health and wellness in Latrobe Valley. This is achieved by facilitating and enabling collaboration among the local communities, local organisations and state-wide agencies and government.
In response to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiries, the Victorian Government designated the Latrobe Valley as a Health Innovation Zone, the first of its kind in Australia.
A key component of the Health Innovation Zone was the formation of the Latrobe Health Assembly, paving the way for a new era of community engagement, health improvement, and integration of health and community services for people with complex conditions.
The Latrobe Health Assembly offers the community a chance to drive health and well-being priorities and consider new ways of working with local services and government, with a focus on innovative ideas and approaches.
The Latrobe Health Assembly engaged Larter to develop a feasible and sustainable model of social prescribing that would be effective in Latrobe Valley.
Social prescribing is sometimes called community referral, community prescriptions, life prescriptions or green prescribing. It occurs when a health care professional (such as doctor or nurse or other) links a patient to a community group or service to help them with some of the challenges of day-to-day life that may be impacting on their health and wellbeing. This might include things like not eating well, finding it hard to exercise, wanting to quit a habit, struggling with child care or parenting, housing or legal issues, feeling lonely or wanting to connect to people with similar interests.
In Latrobe Valley, there was no standard social prescribing system in place to enable clinical and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. Frequently, a GP’s community referring practice is limited by their personal knowledge of services in Latrobe Valley. A part of this work included mapping the possible and existing non-clinical organisations and support services that are available in Latrobe Valley that could be used as ‘prescriptions’.
Larter was requested to provide a range of recommendations that would lead to the successful implementation of a social prescribing model for Latrobe Valley, based on co-design with the community and service providers. This model would identify the conditions necessary for a trial to be funded under Stage Two of this project.
The study comprised a literature scan of the social prescribing evidence, with a particular focus on 25 years of implementation in the United Kingdom, and more recently in New Zealand. Larter also reviewed relevant local data, such as the PHN needs assessment and POLAR data (for example, on high-presenting patients at general practice and those presenting for non-clinical reasons i.e. social reasons). Larter completed local, community asset and resource mapping to identify supports currently available in the community and identified gaps for future funding.
The consultation phase included:
- the community
- the general practice sector and other health services, and
- community sector stakeholders.
The key lines of enquiry for the consultation were to identify the enablers and barriers for community engagement in the model (i.e. how to motivate participation; what supports need to be in place; mapping the consumer experience) and the conditions required to successfully engage general practice, and GPs in particular, in social prescribing.
Community engagement in the model design had a specific focus on groups of people who are likely to benefit from a social prescribing program based on the experience of international programs (for example, people living alone, living with complex mental health and or multiple comorbidities and/or disabilities; experiencing financial distress; lonely older people including men; socially isolated people, among others).
At the end of this project, Larter submitted a feasibility report that presented a number of recommendations about what a social prescribing model should look like for Latrobe Valley based on community and sector priorities.
As part of the feasibility study Larter developed, a business case was presented and accepted by the Latrobe Health Assembly Executive Board.
Most importantly, through our process, we have garnered support from the local service delivery sector, including GPs, for the concept of social prescribing; and raised community awareness and acceptance of the social prescribing model that would form the basis for successful implementation in the second stage of the project.
The model is currently being implemented at a pilot site in Churchill and this will continue until 2023. It has also been approved to expand to additional locations through Latrobe Community Health Services. Following the completion of the pilot, the results of monitoring and evaluation are expected to inform a potential scale up of the initiative.
For more updates about the social prescribing pilot, flip through pages 25 and 26 of Latrobe Health Assembly’s Annual Report 2021-2022.
Larter works across a number of social prescribing projects nationally, from co-design to implementation to evaluation. We work with commissioning bodies through to community groups, digital-led suppliers and general practice implementers. Contact us to explore what social prescribing could look like in your community.