A scheme for people suffering from social isolation, debt and housing difficulties has been so successful it is now being rolled out across Adur and Worthing.
Going Local launched two and a half years ago and has supported more than 1,000 people already.
Known as ‘social prescribing’, it allows GPs to refer patients if they think that non-medical problems might also be impacting on their health.
The scheme has proved so successful that it is set to expand from six across the area to all six surgeries in Adur and eight in Worthing, it has been announced.
Phil Mitchell, from Worthing, was referred to Go Local after his wife died. He said: “What the experience has done has put me nearly back to where I used to be.
“What you’ve got to do is open up, and even if it hurts, you have to tell them because, without you being open and honest, they are not going to be able to help you as much as they possibly can.
“Going Local provided me with an opportunity to review things. It pointed out that what I thought were insignificant things were actually quite important markers of progress, and it helped me plot where I was going.
“It’s positive, that’s all this service is, and people who are using this service are probably in a more negative place, but this is a positive influence on your life.”
The scheme is ran by Adur and Worthing Councils in partnership with West Sussex County Council and Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group.
It receives funding from Lancing and Sompting parish councils, Sompting Big Local and the GP practices through the Transformation Fund.
People referred are helped to identify solutions to problems ranging from housing, employment and financial worries to loneliness, bereavement and lifestyle issues. Staff who take up the cases are called community referrers.
James Hardy was assigned Phil’s case. He said: "It was very clear in Phil’s case that he didn’t want to run before he could walk, so we tried to find the most low level easy thing for him to engage with. He independently, whilst he was here, found out about the bowls club and got involved under his own steam. That was a good sign that he was getting back on track.
“He was at a point in his life where he needed some help, and through a referral to Going Local, he was able to get help that wasn’t just in the form of a pill from the doctor. It was about approaching the social side of Phil’s needs."
Dr Rani Dhillon, at Lime Tree Surgery in Worthing, said: “When I make a referral, there is a real sense of relief that I’m able to offer something to my patients I’ve not been able to offer before. I trust the service, which is really important.
"I’ve seen some amazing cases and even where they have still come back to me, they are using the appointments a lot more appropriately.
“For the patients it’s having someone in their lives who is tailoring the whole service for them. The beauty of the service is that the community referrers are regularly checking in with them and not trying to close their cases down really quickly, but instead saying ‘if that doesn’t work, maybe we can try it this way’."