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Conference to discuss benefits of social prescribing

GPs at the Deep End Ireland are hosting a conference in the RCSI on Saturday, 10 March, which is titled ‘General Practice in Disadvantaged Areas: Role of Linkwork- ers and Social Prescribing’.

Social prescribing is a way of enabling GPs, nurses and oth- er primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. It is viewed by many experts as a very effective tool for GPs, especially those working in areas of disadvantage.

Prof Susan Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of General Practice at the RCSI, told the Medical In- dependent (MI) that conference attendees will also hear first-hand experience of how social prescribing has worked in pilot studies in a limited number of areas in Ireland, while Scottish speakers will also outline the experience in the NHS.

“There are examples of projects that have started up in Dublin but it hasn’t been adopted as a mainstream policy,” Prof Smith told MI.

“So there are GPs who are not working in those areas and who are just interested to see and learn about it, because they think it might well be something that is very useful for patients living in disadvantaged areas, because these patients often have a mixture of medical and social problems and they obviously have much poorer health outcomes. It is a way of helping people manage their different medical needs using different community and social supports, rather than always trying to find a medication or a prescription as a solution.”

Prof Smith is hopeful that this is something the HSE and policy-makers will take more interest in.

“We would like to get the debate going, because it is an effective way of treating people and improving health outcomes,” she said.

The GPs at the Deep End Ireland group has argued in recent months that the ongoing GP contract negotiations should take deprivation into account, with more resources put into areas of higher deprivation.

“But one of the ways that the Government and the De- partment of Health could address that is having a policy of putting social prescribing support in those areas,” said Prof Smith.

Full details of the conference can be found at www.deep- end.ie.

Meanwhile, in advance of International Women’s Day this Thursday, 8 March, the Women in Medicine in Ireland Network (WIMIN) has announced details of its inaugural national meeting.

The first national WIMIN meeting will be held in the Marker Hotel in Dublin on Saturday, 22 September.

“Speakers are not formally confirmed yet but we will have a mix of GPs, consultants and students giving their thoughts on their experiences in medicine in Ireland. There will also be representation from HSE management,” WIMIN founder Dr Sarah Fitzgibbon said.

She confirmed to MI that the new network “is progressing well, with 255 members and counting”.

The Cork GP said the network has partnered with the providers of the National GP Forum app to develop a separate online forum for WIMIN, “which hopefully will provide a platform for women across all specialties to share their experiences and support each other”.

Dr Fitzgibbon will be attending the spring conference of the Medical Women’s Federation in Cardiff, Wales, in May, where she hopes “to learn a lot about what a national medical women’s network should be doing”.

She encouraged any women in medicine in Ireland, including medical students, NCHDs, GPs, consultants, doctors in research or academia, and retired doctors, interested in joining WIMIN to log on to www.wimin.ie.

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