Toni Smith August 31, 2021

Rushcliffe project supports people at risk of social isolation

The Social Prescribing team  in Rushcliffe, which is managed by PartnersHealth, have launched an allotment project to increase their support offer to local people. The service is aimed at helping patients with non-clinical factors that are affecting their wellbeing who live in the Rushcliffe Primary Care Network area.

If you are referred to a social prescriber, whether by a GP, a nurse or another primary care professional, they will work with and support you with a variety of opportunities to boost your wellbeing.

They might introduce you to a community group, a new activity or a local club, or they might help you access legal advice or debt counselling. They might just help you find information and guidance by using a bit of inside knowledge on your situation or what local resources there are.

And, in Rushcliffe, one of the things they might do now is encourage you to get involved with the allotment project.

The Rushcliffe Social Prescribing Group now run a plot at the Ruddington Paradise Gardens after the space was kindly donated by Ruddington Parish Council. The allotment will give people at risk of social isolation or loneliness a quiet space to socialise and learn about gardening.

The allotment project has been driven by social prescribing link worker Sophie Taylor, who alongside the Rushcliffe team, came up with the idea during lockdown when many activities traditionally held inside were put on hold and support services were primarily providing support over the phone.

Sophie explains how the project got up and running: “It all started last year when we had a social prescriber whose mum had a space on the allotment. We were talking about green spaces and the positive affect they can have on people’s wellbeing.

“There’s an allotment working group at Paradise Gardens and they came together and said they were happy to help mentor patients. In March 2021, I got a text from Mandy, who is on the working group at the allotments and has been really supportive, saying there was a plot available at the site and they would like to gift it to social prescribing.

“They said they would help mentor and support and that we could have our own plot. It was all brambles and old buildings when we first took it on, but we said yes and here we are.”

Mandy explains: “The plot had been derelict so we wondered whether it would be suitable for the social prescribers. We got clearance from the council, who gifted it to them.

“We’ve been mentoring the team and the patients, and John and Angela have donated the greenhouse. We’ve been donating plants and fruits and helping with cutting trees.

“Just to be outside, early in the morning with the birds tweeting –it’s such a calm place to be. Even if you don’t do any gardening, it’s a lovely place to just sit and have a cup of tea. It lifts your spirits and you do feel a lot better for just being outside.”

Any produce is either taken home by the patients or is given to a local foodbank.

Sophie continues: “We have a session on Wednesdays, but social prescribers can come down at any time with their patients if they want.

“We’ve had funding from Reach Rushcliffe to help redevelop the gardening space, and we’re collaborating with Tomlinsons Builders to put in some buildings, a patio and more accessible paths.

“We also got a grant from Everards, who were giving £1,000 for community projects within ten miles of an Everards pub, so we’ve bought a summer house for people who can’t be active but who might want to come down and just sit and enjoy the natural surroundings.

“We feel so welcome here. Everyone is so lovely, and the impact on the patients involved has been incredibly encouraging. People blossom being outside and it really improves people’s mental wellbeing.”

Patient and Rushcliffe resident Helen says: “It’s a lovely environment to be in. All the people are really friendly, and ‘getting back to basics’ and seeing things grow gives you a real sense of achievement. Plus the vegetables taste fantastic!

“It’s really helped me, it’s lifted my spirits and the interaction with nature and the earth has been fantastic. The produce, the colours, the smells – it is uplifting. I’ve been coming a few months – on the Wednesdays and sometimes at the weekend – and it’s been wonderful.

“A lot of people here had lost their confidence to go out, but if you are doing an activity side by side, it feels more natural being with other people. And if you don’t want to talk, you have something to do!”

There are around fifteen patients engaged with the project at the moment, having been referred to the project by GPs in Rushcliffe. Residents who benefit were previously socially isolated and the allotment project has helped with both their mental and physical wellbeing.

Social Prescribing Link Worker Team Leader Morgan Sharpe said: “The pandemic has led to an increase in people struggling with their mental health, and we’re all suffering from social isolation.

“We want people to come down here and enjoy the space. It gets people out, it gets people socialising and it’s no pressure. We have raised beds for those unable to do things on the floor. Just get involved and enjoy it!”

Referral to the social prescribing service is by GP or other healthcare professional. To find out more, follow the Rushcliffe Social Prescribing team on Facebook.