Keighley nurse sets up website to help colleagues prescribe non-medical help
By David Knights
A HAWORTH nurse has started a website to help patients and fellow professionals find help for a host of health issues. Helen O’Connell’s website treacle.me offers non-medical solutions for concerns and issues isolation, mental ill-health or the need to get more active.
Helen, who lives in Keighley, is an advance nurse practitioner who works in the growing field of Social Prescribing, which covers many aspects of healthcare that do not need the intervention of the GP.
Instead of giving medicines or surgery, Social Prescribers encourage patients take part in practical activities such as art classes, gardening, cooking, dance classes, volunteering or singing, or seeking debt and welfare advice.
Many GP surgeries in Keighley and surrounding villages now have Social Prescribers on their teams, including Haworth Medical Centre where Keighley woman Helen works.
Nationally the NHS is pushing Social Prescribing as a major strand of healthcare, and in Keighley a Community Health Grant scheme is offering £190,000 a year to help voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations get involved.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, Helen has juggled work and home-schooling two children with developing a new digital platform for Social Prescribing information.
She said: “Social Prescribing is at the heart of much of what we do in primary care. It involves all aspects of health except medicine.
“People’s health is impacted by things such as their work, housing, finances, isolation or anxiety and depression, and these are the issues that social prescribing addresses.
“Until now there has not been a central place where both clinicians and patients can go to get all the information they need. I built the treacle.me site to solve a problem I had when trying to do my job, and I built it simply for myself and my colleagues.
“Since it went live a couple of weeks ago I have been contacted from people like myself all over the country who have exactly the same issues, so I am hopeful that this may one day be expanded beyond Keighley.”
Treacle.me, also known as the Social Prescribing (Self-Care) Directory, has been created to improve links between health professionals and the voluntary and community sector.
Helen hopes it will be used by both medical staff and people in the community, and she o urges organisations and service providers to get in touch with the to be listed in the directory.
She added: “Very often, when someone feels unwell, the answer can not be found in a medical prescription. Often the answer is more likely to be found in a broader assessment of day to day life where, exercise, a feeling of connection or counselling may be what is needed.
“Treacle gathers together information about small local groups, as well as national help and support, into one site, and includes services that are tailored to specific groups like carers, or relate to specific aspects of physical or mental health such as weight loss or mood issues.”
The launch of treacle.me came as Helen was awarded the title of Queens Nurse (QN), a prestigious national award from the Queen`s Nursing Institute, a charity dedicated to improving nursing care in the community.
The award honours a nurse for demonstrating a high level of commitment to patient care and nursing practice.
Helen said: “Being a QN allows me to be connected with a supportive professional network and gives me access to the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s free developmental programme, bursaries and networking.”