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Project ECHO – Social Prescribing

Photo of the HSCB Chair Leslie Drew
Leslie Drew, Chair of the Health and Social Care Board addressing the Social Prescribing Project ECHO network session.

Leslie Drew, new Chair of the Health and Social Care Board, attended his first Board event by addressing participants of a Social Prescribing Project ECHO Network session on Wednesday 10th June.

Social prescribing is a means of supporting people’s health and wellbeing in a holistic way. GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals can refer patients to social prescribing link workers who can work with them to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector.

The Project ECHO network supports social prescribing link workers from across Northern Ireland to connect via videoconferencing on a regular basis to share their best practice and to learn together.

This session was the first opportunity for the teams to share their experiences since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were more than 60 participants and for the first time, social prescribing teams from the Republic of Ireland also joined the session to ensure that the sharing of learning is island wide.

Participants discussed how they have responded and adapted their role during Coronavirus to best support vulnerable people in their communities and what the future looks like for social prescribing while social distancing remains a requirement.

Addressing the participants, Mr Drew said;

“It was pleasure to join the session and to hear how staff have adapted services in order to continue to offer vital support to people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social prescribing recognises that by collectively working together, health care professionals and their community and voluntary partners can help individuals take greater control in improving their own health and wellbeing. I am delighted that our colleagues from the Republic of Ireland shared their experiences with us so that we can learn from each other and ultimately improve the services provided.

“I was genuinely encouraged by what has been achieved in the last 3-months and the important role that this group will clearly play within the NI and ROI communities in helping to address the challenges of the future.”

Since October 2019, the Social Prescribing ECHO network has held monthly learning sessions and has included link workers from the range of social prescribing services in place across NI including;

Originally developed in New Mexico, Project ECHO is a model for learning and sharing good practice which brings people with a shared interest together in structured way within a virtual community using video conferencing technology.