Sheffield patients increasingly visiting GP with social problems

A Sheffield GP says patients are increasingly coming to the surgery with social, rather than medical, problems.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 12:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 3:15 pm

A Sheffield GP says patients are increasingly coming to the surgery with social, rather than medical, problems.

The unnamed GP told the city council that their local voluntary and community organisations were a “saving grace” because they could take on difficult cases and make real improvements to people’s lives.

Their comments came as part of a report into how to prevent ill health. A council working group has been set up but admits: “We’ve heard a lot about the need for us to become a preventive organisation, however it is less clear how we plan to achieve this culture change.

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“We’ve heard lots about the need to work in a more preventive way – to stop and delay people becoming ill, to shift resources, to help people stay well in their communities – both because it’s the right thing to do in terms of people’s wellbeing, and because with reducing budgets and rising demand for public services, it’s financially necessary.

“We wanted to unpick this. Working in a more preventive way is talked about a lot, but what does this mean in practise? How successful are we and is it working?

“It quickly became clear that this is not an easy task – the prevention agenda is huge in scale and scope. Even the word ‘prevention’ means different things to different people.”

There is a clear need to rely on the community and voluntary sector. A report by the group says: “The key message we have heard is the crucial role it plays across the city in the prevention and wellbeing agenda.

“At a time when we are trying to deliver more services at neighbourhood level, voluntary and community organisations are well placed to be the glue joining up communities.”

But the group says more work needs to be done to connect with smaller groups in the city.

“There are many smaller organisations doing vital work all over the city, and we need to consider how we can best provide support for these, and emerging organisations, to grow in a sustainable, well governed way, and ensure these organisations are linked in to the ‘system’.

“It’s become clear to us that a successful system relies on this network, or web of organisations, but we have found it hard to get a comprehensive sense of which organisations are providing what services across the city.

“We feel that it is important that organisations and residents know what’s going on in their communities, so referral routes are effective and people can access help when they need it.

“A mapping exercise would be useful, so we can understand what’s going on across the city, identify any gaps and spread good practice. Councillors could play a useful part, given their insight into their local areas.”

Last November, the healthier communities and adult social care scrutiny committee held a meeting to consider “prevention” and established a working group to look at it in more detail.

Its report can be read here: