Tracy Olckers, Lead Social Prescriber, Crawley Care Collaborative
“I joined the Crawley Care Collaborative team in July 2020 and began working across the PCN’s four surgeries, Leacroft Medical Practice, Southgate Medical Group, Bridge Medical Centre and Langley Corner Surgery. At that stage I was the only member of the team but we’ve since grown and I now oversee two colleagues too.
Previous to joining the PCN I had worked for four years as a Social Prescriber within the voluntary sector and this is where my passion for the role stems from. In fact, I was the first Social Prescriber in Crawley.
Social Prescribers offer a wide range of low-level community-based support to help patients improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing, their independence and resilience as well as their connections with the local community. After an initial assessment, patients will be supported to engage with appropriate local services and activities.
We support those who have been bereaved, are carers, socially isolated and / or lonely, experiencing relationship issues, physical inactivity, as well as those experiencing challenges with finance, housing and homelessness. We also assist patients with lower-level mental health conditions such as low mood and anxiety.
While we want to find solutions and make everything better for our patients, we are actually here to empower them to move forward. We walk alongside them until they are ready to make the next step.
There’s no such thing as a typical day in this role and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. We offer a flexible approach to our patients and are happy to meet them wherever they feel most comfortable whether that be at the surgery, at their home or in the park. So, I can start the day walking and chatting to one patient before attending a social group meet up with another and then head to someone’s home before the day is out.
During the past two years our role has changed significantly. A large percentage of our patients used to be older, lonely people who needed help to access social groups or activities. But the world is now a more complicated place and, what once involved only light touch, low-level support, often now requires so much more. With the pandemic and the cost of the living crisis, we find that we often need to dedicate far more time to individuals to help them address their needs.
As well as individual support, we’ve also become more involved in wider projects and group support. This varies enormously and ranges from helping to arrange activities for locally housed refugees to launching a PCN Bereaved Men’s Group that allows patients a forum within which to support one another. We’ve also spent time identifying new cohorts to target such as those who are socially isolated or anxious and have subsequently launched a monthly meet-up at the Revive Café in Crawley.
The demand for our service has never been greater, and on average each of our team is supporting between 30-40 people at a time. In fact, since I started in 2020, we’ve received more than 1,000 referrals from our four practices and been able to help so many people to improve their circumstances.
For me, I love the variety that this role brings, but also the sense of purpose and achievement at the end of the day – knowing that you’ve made a difference to someone’s life.”