Good neighbours supporting the community
10th December 2014
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The aim of Neighbourhood Health Watch is to increase community resilience and reduce isolation and loneliness amongst the most vulnerable. The idea came from a Devon based GP who could see that communities already do a lot to help one another, but that it would be good to support communities to enable them to do more.

Neighbourhood Health Watch is not about replacing paid professionals or existing voluntary organisations. All it takes are a few good neighbours who are willing to work together to support the most vulnerable members of their community. Communities will, in turn, receive the support of their local GP Practice, Police Community Support Officer and Community Fire & Safety Representative.

Central Area Commander Nick Manning sits on the advisory board for Neighbourhood Health Watch in Devon explains; “It’s still very early days, but this scheme can potentially provide us with information not available elsewhere of where the Fire Services ‘most hard to reach’ are. The scheme relies very much on the goodwill amongst neighbors, people who know what is going on in their street and have a real interest in helping others. Everyone understands the concept of Neighbourhood Watch and this brings in the element of well health and safety which so far has been missing.”

For the Fire Service this will result in better targeting those at most risk, reducing fires and injuries where people live. Also further expanding working with partners to identify vulnerable people that other agencies already know about.

Jayne Clarke, Neighbourhood Health Watch Coordinator said: “Nick first approached me in April to see if the Fire Service could work with us on the idea and it was very timely as Public Health, who are the main funders for the project, had been saying one of their key objectives was for us to partner up with the Fire Service in this phase of the project.

“Since that first meeting I have been setting up the support groups known as ‘Good Neighbour Volunteers’. It’s not formal volunteering, some training is given, but this is more about depending on the goodwill amongst neighbours. I ensure that the groups know where to go if there is a problem. So it’s a one stop shop that signposts any health and wellbeing issues of the vulnerable and high at risk to all agencies. It’s very cost effective; especially now it’s all set up. 

“It’s about providing early intervention within the community whether the good neighbour is walking the dog, collecting prescriptions, checking a smoke alarm or ensuring an electrical power socket isn’t overloaded. A ‘good neighbour volunteer’ will be on the lookout for clues and triggers within the home that could prevent any future issues.”

Project Director and Co-founder on behalf of the NIHR CLAHRC for the Southwest Peninsula and Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Peter Aitken explained: “Neighbourhood Health Watch is all about connecting trusted community support for health. The fire and rescue service is a crucial partner in any watch especially given the risk of fire death associated with lonely, vulnerable people living in isolation who can benefit from fire prevention support.”

Nick Manning continued: “The Neighbourhood Health Watch is helping to build community resilience particularly in rural communities that could become isolated due to something like adverse weather. Traditionally these have been the hardest areas to reach and this is where we have had the most success.”

“At the same time as Jayne was setting up support groups. I asked the Group Commanders to work with their communities and partners to set up data sharing. To date 15 partnership agreements have been set up by Ian Treadwell, Station Manager, Central Command East in anticipation of this scheme.

“We have already started to see a return in the investment of these partnership agreements. We have a practical, customer friendly, simple to follow seamless process.

“We’re very pleased with the results as we’re reaching the hard to reach as well as extracting the data the key partners hold and being able to record who placed the referral.

Prince of Wales award

The Newton St Cyres Community Support Group (Neighbourhood Health Watch) has recently been awarded the Prince of Wales award of honour, for increasing community resilience and reducing isolation and loneliness in Newton St Cyres. This is a huge achievement, with the award being presented to the scheme Coordinator, Simon Lovell, by the Prince of Wales Personal Advisor, at the Devon County Show on 23rd May 2014.

HSJ Award

Neighbourhood Health Watch has been shortlisted for an HSJ Award 2014, in the Managing Long Term Conditions Category.

By raising the level of importance of safety in the home the scheme aims to:

  • Increase resilience at community level
  • Reduce social isolation and loneliness
  • Reduce the risk of a fire or carbon monoxide death
  • Help reduce visits to the GP, A&E and calls to 999
  • Improve community links to NHS, fire, police, and voluntary sector
  • Promote volunteering
  • Helping people with dementia to stay in their home for longer
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Dave B

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