Citizens Advice West Suffolk (CAWS) has been working with the Citizens Advice (CA) offices in Ipswich and Colchester in partnership with Suffolk and North East Essex Long COVID Assessment Service (SNELCAS) to provide a social prescribing service for people with Long COVID since November 2021.
Citizens Advice has built robust working relationships with SNELCAS providing a collaborative approach to the patient’s overall health and wellbeing. This enables the clinical teams to be able to concentrate on providing clinical care, and the Social Prescribing Advisers to provide the non-clinical help and support individuals need to help them adjust and gain independence with their medical condition.
Funding has been provided by the East Suffolk and North East Essex NHS Foundation (ESNEFT) until March 2024.
Symptoms of Long COVID
Some of the common symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Muscle and Joint pain
- Loss of taste and smell
You can find out more about symptoms here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/covid-19/long-term-effects-of-covid-19-long-covid/
Citizens Advice Social Prescribing
SNELCAS recognised that patients they were treating at the Long COVID clinics in Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals faced other difficulties because of their ongoing illness. They approached Citizens Advice to see if they could help. Social prescribers were appointed in each of the three CA offices to provide advice and support to people referred from the Long COVID clinics with:
- Money and debt
- Family and relationships
Social prescribing is all about building strong and effective relationships with clients, across the NHS system, local authorities, community partners and other agencies. The social prescribing system views patients’ needs holistically – combining excellent clinical care with support for their social welfare needs resulting in enhanced outcomes.
We take the time to listen and find out what is important to the patient and what issues they want to focus on. We place them at the centre of all we do, enabling them to access support from various agencies and organisations so they can make informed decisions to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
Having identified the patient’s wants and needs we work in partnership with SNELCAS and other community services to ensure an effective and coordinated approach.
Social Prescribers receive referrals from Clinicians within SNELCAS, then conduct an initial discovery appointment either by phone or face to face (in person or virtually) to ascertain the patient’s issues and priorities to improve their overall health. The Social Prescriber develops and agrees an Action Plan with the patient that clearly sets out who is doing what with key dates and deadlines. At this initial appointment their perception of their current wellbeing is recorded as a Personal Wellbeing Score which is then re-assessed after completion of the advice process to evidence the difference the Social Prescriber has made.
Between (insert date) and (insert ) CA social prescribers have helped over 500 (insert stats).
Between 1/3/2022 and 28/2/2023 we have helped nearly 300 clients with more than 1,000 issues. We have helped clients gain at least £70,000 additional income and over £100 of reimbursements, services or loans.
This has enabled the clinicians working in the Long COVID clinics to focus on patient health.
Suffolk and Northeast Essex Long COVID Assessment Service
SNELCAS operates three clinics at Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital and Colchester Hospital. As space is limited at West Suffolk Hospital, arrangements are being made to move the clinic to Stowmarket.
Patients are referred to the service by their GP following a preliminary assessment and tests which rule out other illnesses.
Once referred, patients have further tests if needed, and a treatment plan is put in place.
The aim of the Long COVID Assessment Service is to provide patients with the knowledge and skills to support their recovery, enabling them to work, manage other responsibilities and enjoy their social life and hobbies again.
If clinicians identify areas outside of their health remit that patients need help with, they refer to the Citizens Advice social prescribing service.
To access support from our Long COVID Social Prescribers please visit your GP in the first instance and request a referral to SNELCAS.
Find out more about Long COVID and the support available at:
Long COVID resource pack
Please read our resource pack and download our poster, flyer, newsletter content and social media graphics to help us raise awareness of the support available for people with Long COVID: