Reflections from St Austell Healthcare on our Music for Well-being programme
"It has been fantastic to see the success of Social Prescribing for Children and Young People build at St Austell Healthcare and include Music for Good in the opportunities we can offer to our young patients. It is wonderful to hear music in the surgery and to see such a different approach to medicine, helping to keep young people happy and healthy. Learning to play and participate in music is something children and young people can enjoy throughout their lives, and it helps to manage stress and anxiety in a positive and creative way. I hope that we are able to keep this excellent project going at St Austell Healthcare and offer Music for Well-Being to more children and young people."
Dr Laura Ashton, GP St Austell Healthcare
Impact Report on the partnership working between St Austell Healthcare and the Social Prescribing team and Music for Good and the Music and Well-Being support being offered to children and young people.
Author: Davina Slack, Young Persons Social Prescribing Link Worker, St Austell Healthcare
Social prescribing is a way of linking patients to sources of non-clinical support in the community to benefit and help with health and well-being. There are many reasons for referral ranging from weight management, isolation and loneliness, mental health, debt, housing or employment. Some of the initiatives that can be referred into include walking groups, support groups, exercise classes, gardening groups and gym activities, as well as more specialist support organisations. St Austell Healthcare Social Prescribing for Children & Young People St Austell Healthcare has a strong team of Social Prescribers and traditionally this has been supporting patients aged 18 years and older.
The practice has an estimated 38,000 patients living in the St Austell, Mevagissey and Foxhole areas and it became apparent that there was a huge gap in support for children and young people. These children were living through the Covid 19 pandemic with its own set of anxieties and concerns, they were not attending school, with reduced access to services, to activities and to peer socialisation. Areas of St Austell itself fall into the 10% of the most deprived areas in the country. It was therefore highlighted that visits to medical practitioners and GPs for these younger cohorts were beginning to escalate, especially around mental health, and there was a lack of support services and community provision to support these concerns. I joined the practice in early 2021 and worked to establish and maintain a robust and supportive social prescribing service for children and young people, up to the age of 25 years, to complement the adult provision. This fully opened to professional referrals in April 2021.
In 2021 social prescribing at St Austell Healthcare received a total of 799 referrals, and 146 of these were for children and young people; this equates to approx. 22% of all referrals in just 9 months. Based on the first 2 months of 2022, social prescribing is expecting around 1300 referrals this year; we are therefore potentially looking at 286 referrals for children and young people. These figures demonstrate the urgent need for more holistic support to be made available for the children and young people in the St Austell area. 2 By the summer of 2021 a few activities had started to re-open, and a selection of new and existing activities and opportunities were becoming available for children and young people. However, there were still many gaps in provision that I was being made aware of through my interactions with patients.
Music for Good
Music for Good already had a trusted and effective working partnership with the adult Social Prescribing team developing and delivering their Singing for Health programmes. Through conversations the offer came up of St Austell Healthcare and the Social Prescribing team being involved in their Music and Well-being Programme with children and young people. This was a suggestion that would immediately fill a gap in services for children and young people that were struggling emotionally and enjoyed the idea of using and working with music as a means of supporting their feelings. We are aware of the importance of developing and integrating music into the lives of young people.
A child’s active engagement in music can have many positive effects, including: Perceptual, language and literacy skills, Numeracy, Intellectual development, Attention and concentration Physical development and health.
This proposal and the programme that we subsequently put together in a partnership agreement was unique. The offer for the young person would be to receive ten 45-minute sessions, 1:1, with a certified Trauma Informed Practitioner, to work with music and an array of different musical instruments in a way that would help to support them, that was individualised and special to them. These sessions were to be personalised to St Austell Healthcare and would take place within the surgery setting. Referral would be via Social Prescribing alone.
Having identified an initial cohort of 5 young people who had shown an interest we put together the Music for Well-Being sessions as agreed and invited the young people along. For two young people the reality didn’t quite fit for them, but for 4 young people they did complete the full 10 sessions offered. The sessions have now completed their first cohort, and the results have been impressive.
Feedback has been astonishing. Each child is invited back through their Social Prescribing 6 weekly reviews, and the remarks have all been startling: One young person uses a drum now at school to calm himself when feeling angry. Another young person had a keyboard for Christmas as he benefited from the calming music that he could play on it.
I would like to share one example of some feedback I kindly received from a parent: The young person is on the neurodevelopmental pathway but with no diagnosis, not engaging with school, lack of social relationships, struggling to express feelings and emotions, there are behavioural concerns, they are not leaving the home:
“They really enjoyed their time with Jane at Music for Good. I think they would have benefited from more sessions; I would go as far to say it should be on the curriculum for children with additional needs. Maybe selfishly but it gave me an hour’s respite. It gave them something to look forward to which also meant they were leaving the house, something they’ve been getting anxious about ever since school became a problem and they feared leaving the house in case I was forcing them to school. The instruments involved (the Himalayan bells) had a very calming effect which took away all aggressive behaviours created by misunderstandings elsewhere. I would recommend this to any families with children with sensory problems and anxiety. Thank you for suggesting it and for Jane, she’s one in a million”.
Due to the numbers expressing an interest a waiting list was established. This waiting list, at the end of Cohort 1 shows 18 young people who would like to receive support. From these 18 young people, we have now identified our next Cohort of 5 young people to benefit from the Music for Well-being sessions. We are pleased to learn that Music for Good have been successful in attracting further funding from Cornwall Music Education Hub to meet some of this growing need. We are therefore in conversation with Music for Good around how we can look at supporting the existing referrals that we have in place, together with a longer-term plan to meet the increasing demand over the next 12 months and beyond.
I feel that Social Prescribing as a service is developing rapidly and becoming an emergent and realistic way forward for many children and young people. Social prescribing is a way for services, both statutory as well as the voluntary sector, in collaboration with young people, to find innovative solutions to the problems that many young people face, either physical and/or mental health conditions caused by social and environmental factors. Instead of medical intervention we can use sources of non-medical support in the local community such as sport, volunteering, social groups, mentoring, lifestyle balance and advice to help. The arts and music are integral to all of this.
Referrals into Social Prescribing are now coming from not only GPs and medical practitioners, but from Schools and Colleges, Social Care teams, the voluntary and community sector and others. We are therefore committed to working with our partners to support the ongoing health and well-being of our young people, and we are wholly committed to the support that Music for Good is offering to our children and young people at St Austell Healthcare.
Working as the Social Prescriber for children and young people at the surgery, I feel genuinely fortunate in being able to offer this amazing service. I feel that the opportunity young people have is truly amazing and the benefits that I have witnessed in the four patients that have accessed the service to date has been overwhelming. I feel that St Austell Healthcare is pioneering the way forward in offering this unique Music for Well-being service to children and young people and having this accessibility within a surgery setting.