Media Releases

On this page you will find the latest press releases from Surrey Heartlands CCG.

Social prescribing – providing support during COVID-19

Lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic can be extremely difficult for some people who are experiencing loneliness, anxiety and other non-medical pressures. A scheme to provide appropriate emotional and practical support to members of the community who are isolated or struggling is available in the Guildford and Waverley area.

In the same way that a patient with a prescription can get their medication from a pharmacist, social prescribing enables people to access the services that will help them for non-medical individual support.

Social prescribing is a way for local authorities, GPs, and Adult Social Care to refer people to a link worker. Social Prescribing Link Workers (SPLWs) give people time, helping them to focus on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.

Social prescribing works for a wide range of people, including those:

  • with one or more long-term conditions
  • who need support with their mental health
  • who are lonely or isolated
  • who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing

SPLWs provide practical help by linking people with local volunteer schemes or NHS responders. Emotional support can also come from SPLWs themselves who make regular welfare calls to their ‘clients’. SPLWs can also link those in need to community-based emotional support, befriending services as well as signpost to mental health support services such as IAPT.

Despite the current restrictions, social prescribing can still enable people to access regular activities like social groups and exercise classes, the only difference is that rather than face-to-face it will be carried out online via video conferencing apps.

Some examples of how SPLWs can connect and provide support

Mr A is in his 90s and cares for his wife who has dementia. At the start of lockdown his SPLW linked him to his local volunteer group. This enabled the couple to continue to get their shopping and prescriptions. However, as lockdown has carried on, Mr A started to feel the strain due to isolation and his wife’s dementia. His SPLW picked up on the drop in his mood during their weekly welfare telephone calls. As a result, she was able to refer Mr A to the RAF Benevolent Fund who work in partnership with The Silver Line and a telephone friendship group. This network provides access to a weekly telephone call with six other RAF veterans; giving him something to look forward to each week.

Mr S has a history of anxiety and poor physical health. His anxiety has been steadily increasing since the beginning of lockdown but he has been able to talk through his anxieties and share his feelings about living alone during this time with a SPLW.
He was very worried about the change to his routine and wanted to continue to do his shopping at the supermarket. His SPLW arranged regular food deliveries and linked him to his local volunteer scheme so they could collect his prescriptions from the Pharmacy. The SPLW also referred Mr S to an NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service to help with his increasing anxiety levels that he has been experiencing during this period.

Mrs W has a history of mental health and a physical disability. She is also caring for her husband who has suffered a recent illness. She was struggling with the loss of her routine; especially the social groups she has come to rely on for her emotional wellbeing. With the help of her SPLW she was connected to a group that provides technology support for older and disabled people. As a result, Mrs W has been able to participate in her weekly groups online. This has made her feel less isolated and more positive about the current situation.

Vicky Stobbart, Managing Director, Guildford and Waverley ICP said:

“It is so encouraging to see the great work that is taking place in our community, particularly for those who are feeling lonely and anxious during these difficult times. Social prescribing can link people with many sources of support within the community. It provides a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and wellbeing.”

If a member of your family, a neighbour or someone you know is struggling at the moment please let them know about the support that is available to them through social prescribing. SPLWs can provide links to appropriate advice, support and networks. Referrals can be made by a GP.

pdf Social Prescribing during COVID-19 lockdown (161 KB)

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Dietitians cook up ideas to provide a new menu of support

Those at risk of malnutrition, struggling with their appetite or losing weight, rely on dietitians for help. Prior to COVID-19, patients in East Surrey routinely saw the First Community Health and Care dietetic team in care homes, clinics, their own homes or community hospital wards.

Sadly, their world was turned upside down when COVID-19 forced face to face dietetic services to be put on hold. However, thanks to some innovative ideas, dietetic support is still available.

Prescribing Support Dietitian, Kate Evans, who works for Surrey Heartlands East Surrey Integrated Care Partnership, explains how the dietitian team have overcome numerous challenges presented due to COVID-19:

“We have had to adapt to new ways of working and trial different options to discover what suits patients the best. Embracing change, we have introduced telephone clinics and consultations and are promoting and expanding online platforms and resources available to patients.

“We are determined to reduce the impact COVID-19 has on our patients’ nutritional status, for instance our new COVID-19 Food First advice sheets, available online, help provide useful hints and tips on managing symptoms”.

Complementing the advice sheets are a suite of videos showing how to make a range of fortified nutritional products. Produced by Kate and Juliette Harmer, Lead Prescribing and Care Home Support Dietitian, they highlight how people can make nourishing drinks and snacks at home to increase their intake of calories and protein.

The team have also developed virtual clinics and group sessions which they are currently trialling. Dietitian Cleo Kamere ran a group for the condition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) on Thursday 7 May and describes how well the session went:

“Using the Zoom platform, seven patients from Surrey attended our new one hour group session, designed to help manage their IBS symptoms. During COVID-19 they have been unable to have face to face contact and the session provided them with the opportunity to interact with me which they were eager to do”.

Kate's colleague, Registered Dietitian Anna FitzGibbon, appeared on BBC Radio Surrey’s afternoon show this week and was interviewed by Allison Ferns. She talked about dietary issues including those experiencing weight loss and poor appetite during lockdown and the new ways of working of the Dietitian service and the difference they are making to the local community. Listen by clicking here (interview at 53:56) please note this is an external website.

pdf 200512 Dietitians cook up ideas to provide a new menu of support (313 KB)

The NHS is still here for you – make sure you get care when and where you need it

A major new drive has been launched to persuade the public to seek urgent care and treatment from the NHS when they need it.

Over recent weeks there has been significantly lower numbers of people contacting their GP practices or attending emergency departments and urgent treatment centres. Delays in getting medical help, advice and treatment pose a long-term risk to people’s health and wellbeing and ultimately their lives.

Dr Charlotte Canniff, local GP and Clinical Chair of NHS Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We understand people are worried about placing a burden on the NHS and we know that people are concerned about coronavirus.

"However, the NHS is still here for you, there is capacity within our services and we have worked hard to ensure it is safe for you to access essential services.”

Seeking medical help is one of the four reasons that people can safely leave home, in line with government guidance. If you or a member of your family experience symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke, are a worried parent or have concerns about conditions such as cancer you should seek help. If you have a symptom that you are worried about, you must contact your GP practice.

Dr Canniff added: “People really should contact their GP or use the 111 online service if they have urgent care needs, or 999 in emergencies; attending hospital if they are told they should. If you cannot get help using the online NHS 111 service then please do call 111.

“The current situation does mean services are being delivered differently, in some cases virtually, but we continue to deliver health advice and treatment safely to meet the needs of everyone. For example, if you need medical help from your GP, contact them either online or by phone to be assessed.

“I would also encourage people to continue to use other vital health services such as maternity appointments, mental health support and cancer treatment. Your clinician will discuss if there are any issues posed by coronavirus. If we ignore problems or treatment it can have serious consequences.

“This also applies to routine vaccinations for babies and children. We know they protect against serious and potentially deadly illnesses and it is imperative that even during the coronavirus outbreak we do not stop protecting ourselves and our communities against other viruses.”

If you need medical help and it’s not a life threatening emergency, remember to call your GP practice, call NHS 111 or visit first.

  pdf The NHS is still here for you – make sure you get care when and where you need it. (406 KB)

Technology Helping Surrey Care Home Residents Stay Connected

Care home residents and patients across Surrey are now able to keep in touch with friends and family, thanks to newly introduced video calling devices installed in care settings. Facebook Portal devices are now available in a number of care homes and hospital care settings, enabling residents to stay in regular contact with loved ones through the touch of a button.

The initiative is one of a number of measures being introduced by partners across Surrey to support the most vulnerable and socially isolated residents remain connected during COVID-19 isolation measures. The initiative aims to reduce feelings of isolation and offer emotional support by maintaining regular contact between residents and their family and friends, or connect residents with local volunteers.

Surrey was the first pilot site in the country to be selected by NHSX, the digital arm of NHS England, to take part in the scheme and learnings from the county will be used to roll out the project nationwide in the coming weeks. 50 Portal devices have been provided free of charge to care homes and hospital trusts by Facebook and NHSX, with support and training offered to staff to ensure successful implementation and connectivity to wifi networks. Infection control measures are also in place to maintain the high hygiene levels currently in place across care home settings when using the shared device.

Katherine Church, Joint Chief Digital Officer for Surrey County Council and Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System said: "Current social isolation measures pose a real challenge to the health and wellbeing of Surrey residents, especially those who can become socially isolated from friends and family.

"I’m delighted that Surrey has been selected as the first pilot site in the UK to roll out this fantastic initiative, and that we can now offer a solution to bring families closer together, offering support and companionship at a time when we need it more than ever.

"The Facebook Portal system allows residents and patients the opportunity to hold real-time, face to face conversations remotely from the comfort of their own space and I’m grateful to the many people across the Surrey system which helped launch this initiative’.

Greenbanks Care Home is just one of the local care homes which received the Portal device last week and whose residents are enjoying virtual time with their loved ones. Yasheen Rajan, Director of the home said: "Technology can be an incredible leveller between the young and old. One of our residents recently had a call using Facebook’s portal with his 3-year old great grandson. Neither of them had used the system before and it was wonderful to see how natural and au fait they both were conversing over the portal within a few seconds.   

"We see huge benefits in using the Facebook’s portal, especially with residents who have dementia. Our residents may not fully understand ‘the what’ effect Covid is having on the world but they can tell something is different and that can be unsettling. Being able to see and hear their relatives is incredibly comforting at this time".

The pilot scheme will see feedback gathered from participating care homes and hospitals and further devices distributed across Surrey care settings if deemed successful.

  document Portal update slides with photos and feedback from care home residents and patients. (7.15 MB)


Audiology team adapt support to ensure patients stay safe at home

Feeling isolated and anxious during lockdown? Now imagine you have a hearing impairment. Relying on a hearing aid is tough enough as it is but what if you run into trouble with your device, what do you do if you can’t nip out for a face to face appointment with your audiologist?

Determined to provide their patients with all the care they need, First Community Health and Care Audiology Service in Surrey Heartlands have risen to the challenge. Their team of 12, which includes seven audiologists, two assistants and three administrators, are all usually based in hospitals or clinics in East Surrey. Although used to providing face to face appointments, they now find themselves having to adjust to home working and relying on telephone and email to communicate with patients who are living in the community.

Undefeated by technical issues and anything else the current situation throws at them, this tight knit team are adapting to new ways of working. Adopting new approaches, means that they are successfully assisting patients and helping them avoid any unnecessary risks connected with leaving the safety of their own home. Many of their patients are over 70 and some are feeling anxious and isolated. By taking a positive and proactive approach, the audiology team are managing to meet their patients’ needs, including:

  • Taking patient histories for their hearing assessment /re-assessment appointment
  • Discussing issues with hearing aids, assisting with replacements and trouble shooting
  • Counselling patients struggling with Tinnitus
  • Discussing the posting of replacement hearing aids, ear moulds, replacement tubes and batteries as well as organising the collection and delivery of broken hearing aids from vulnerable adults, all free of charge
  • Arranging to see a limited number of face to face patients if appropriate.

Faye Hopkins-Thorpe, Lead Audiologist said “We have completely reinvented how we work! Some of our patients are very anxious, understandably, so the team are making case by case judgements on how best to support patients and the admin team are doing a really good job of picking up these patients”.

Deborah Chapman, Assistant Audiologist said “Solving a hearing aid problem or sending tubes, instructions or batteries is either a ‘lifesaver’ or an added bonus from our very grateful patients”.

What makes it all worthwhile is the response from their patients who are over the moon with the service they are getting. Their messages of thanks include: Thank you so much for calling, showing that you care and spending so much time with me on phone”. 

Faye also appeared on BBC Radio Surrey’s morning breakfast show discussing communication issues for those with hearing impairments during lockdown and the new ways of working for the Audiology service. Listen by clicking here (interview at 1:47:10) please note this is an external website.
Find out more about the work of First Community Health and Care, part of the Surrey Heartlands partnership, at or follow them @1stchatter.

Hand sanitiser supplies shored up by #surreyheroes

4000 litres of hand sanitiser are being delivered to acute hospitals as well as GP practices across Surrey, thanks to the quick thinking of Guildford businessman David Lubbock.

There has been a national shortage of hand sanitiser since the outbreak of COVID-19 and it took no time at all for David, CEO of local business Solventis, to swing into action and start producing hand sanitiser to donate to front line local NHS services.

Solventis, a chemical and solvent supplier, based in Guildford, is experienced in supplying a key ingredient used to make hand sanitiser, however the company does not usually produce the final product. In response to huge demand, David contacted an experienced manufacturer, Cleenol, to start producing the hand sanitiser themselves. Each GP practice will receive 4 x 5L bottles and each hospital will receive 20 x 5L bottles.

Stepping up too is Paul Martin, CEO of Kelly’s Storage, Guildford who has offered to provide free deliveries to all GP practices and acute hospitals across Surrey and to solve any hand sanitiser storage issues.

Together, David, Paul and their staff are all doing their bit to support the NHS services in Surrey Heartlands and that’s why we think they are #surreyheroes.

pdf 200415 Hand Sanitiser Supplies Shored up by Surrey Heroes SyHeartCCG Apr 2020 (117 KB)