Local people have spoken about how being placed in social prescribing courses in Derry has helped transform their lives and eradicate reliance on prescription medication.
They were commenting as the Bogside& Brandywell Health Forum launched a £3 m three-years National Lottery funded SPRING health project, to reduce pressure on GPs while improving the health and wellbeing of patients here and in Scotland.
Social prescribing involves GPs referring patients to community activities such as exercise classes and social clubs to reduce isolation and dependence on medication. The project will support 4,000 adults across Northern Ireland, employing 16 social prescribers who will work with 60 GP practices, the Healthy Living Centre Alliance and the five Trusts.
Speaking at the launch in the Guildhall on Tuesday, Veronica Mohamat (75) from Miller Street said she was referred after being diagnosed borderline diabetes in 2018. “It scared the life out of me,” she said. “The doctor offered me the medication and I was quite afraid, I didn’t want to take it so he offered the social prosecribing and I never heard of it before, so I made inquiries. I visited the Gasyard and started in the gymwith gentle exercise, and back to the doctor and I had dropped three stone and four dress sizes and no medication. I have reversed the diabetes. The doctor couldn’t believe it. I am not a diabetic anymore. It is all thanks to social prescribing and the staff at the Gasyard for helping me on my journey. It was the best thing ever happened to me. It was brilliant, meeting new people and the craic was 90. And I had to get a whole new wardrobe!”
Karen O’Reilly (46), from Creggan, was referred for chronic pain. She said: “I have never heard of it before. Honestly it’s been amazing and it has opened up other things to me - meditation, acupuncture and yoga. Each session was different. I stopped taking my prescription drugs. I was on different types of prescription drugs that had different side effects, so I’m starting to do more yoga, meditation, looking into other ways of managing my pain. It’s worked really well for me.”
Danielle Keenan, SPRING Project Manager, said: “After the three year programme we would like to see social prescribing integrated into the health service.”
Derry GP, Dr Paul Molloy, whose practice will refer patients to the project, said: “Social prescribing integrates people into the community, allowing them to develop good friendships. The attraction to the health service is that it will hopefully reduce people’s reliance on statutory health care.”
Kate Beggs, The National Lottery Community Fund NI Director, said: “Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum is providing a valuable connection between the health service and the community, building on the strengths that already exist, to improve people’s lives.”