I was born in London and lived in Bethnal Green with my parents. I then moved to Hackney in 1981 and I have been here ever since.
I left school with no qualifications so decided to do a YTS scheme as a Travel Agent. I endeavoured on this scheme because Geography was my favourite subject at school, but unfortunately the company went bankrupt, so I wasn’t able to finish my course. A few years down the line and a few jobs later I had my daughter. She developed Severe Epilepsy, so I had to become her full-time Carer. During this time, I’ve done a lot of volunteering in my daughter’s school, school fetes and outings, and much more. Being able to lend a helping hand to the school and my community gave me such joy as life was tough at that point in my life.
Since 2013, I have worked in Tower Hamlets, starting out as a Health Champion Volunteer. I absolutely loved this role and had the opportunity to do a City & Guilds Level 3 Health Trainers Course, which led to me getting a position as a Tower Hamlets Health Trainer for The GP Care Group’s Network 7 and 8, which was my first paid role for many years.
This role was so rewarding as I got to do what I loved - helping people, empowering, and motivating them to change their lifestyles and improve their health and wellbeing. I achieved this by encouraging people to participate in our health sessions, cooking lessons, walking groups, and exercise classes. I was gutted when the Health Trainers was decommissioned as we were helping so many people improve their health and wellbeing.
Then an opportunity arose for me to apply for a role as a Social Prescriber in 2016 within the GP Care Group. This is my current position.
My role as a Social Prescriber is to refer and signpost patients to services in the community that supports them with any non-medical issues. My team receives referrals from all staff in GP practices across Tower Hamlets and Primary Care. We also receive referrals from organisations outside of primary care, as well as self-referrals.
Most services required are housing, debt, benefits, weight management, employment & training, low mood and anxiety. Social Isolation and Loneliness is also an issue in Tower Hamlets, so connecting patients up to groups makes a huge improvement on their mental health and wellbeing.
My role sits within GP Care Group’s Healthy Island Partnership Network 8.
In Network 8 we have two Health Coaches who support patients with their health and wellbeing, and my team works closely with them as we receive many referrals requiring their support. They offer more long-term support for patients around weight management, healthy eating, exercise, depression, low mood, stress, anxiety, sleep problems, and coping with life. They also run workshops for patients to attend.
Another service I work with is the Community Mental Health Team. When a patient has more complex needs and has a Support Worker, we work together to get the patient the best support that will benefit their needs. This could be training, employment, housing, accessing groups, or care needs. Working closely with this service gives the patient the best chance of a positive outcome.
I start my day checking my emails, Clinics, and referrals to prioritise patients who need more urgent support.
I have clinics in four GP practices where I see patients for 30-minute one-to-one appointments, sometimes I need to book longer appointments if a patient has more complex needs. When I have a consultation with a patient, I’ll have a discussion with them and assess their needs - most of the time through conversation I find out they have more than one need, and either sign post or refer the patient to a service in the community. I follow up with them six-eight later.
During the pandemic, my team were told we had to work remotely. At first it was quite a challenge as we didn’t have the right equipment and patients were needing different kinds of support. Once we received home furniture and equipment things became a lot easier. As for patient’s needs, we pulled together as a community and did everything we could by getting food and medication delivered to the elderly and vulnerable. A big part of this support was from the volunteers who were delivering all these things to the community. My team also worked closely with Tower Hamlets Council by checking on the vulnerable patients via telephone to see if they were getting the support they needed.
I think the most challenging aspect of my Social Prescribing role is services not being available, either due to having ceased operating or being at full capacity, which means patients are put on a waiting list. This can have an impact on patients as they need support ASAP, so it makes our work so much harder to try and provide this for them.
I enjoy helping people, so to see someone I’ve helped have a smile because they have managed to take a step towards improving their health and wellbeing, or they are managing to get support from services just from coming to see you, is something I’m proud of. There is no better feeling as you know you have played a part in empowering them to make changes.
A particular moment I am proud of is helping a patient of mine who was suffering with her mental health, depressed and not really leaving the house. With my support she is now on her second year of a Floristry College Course and is about to start volunteering for a top Florist to gain experience, and she is even volunteering at a food bank. She told me her life has changed so much since she met me and most importantly, she is smiling.
I love to sing (badly lol) and used to be in a choir.