‘Everything is possible’ at the model GP practice

Beautiful flooring at the Bromley-by-Bow garden

Based on the principle that only 20 per cent of what GPs do is effective for their patients, (Professor Sir) Sam Everington has built up a health centre in London’s East End which ‘takes the patient on a journey of managing their own health’. ‘Instead of asking patients, “What’s the matter with you?”, we like to ask, “What matters to you?”
Just imagine going to the GP’s practice to talk about your ailments, and the doctor decides that you need so much more than healthcare. What’s more, what you need is quite likely to be available at the health centre. Sounds like some idyllic dream, but tucked into a side street just back from the high-rise buildings and fast highways is Bromley-by-Bow Health Centre, a haven of peace and friendliness, with a warm, buzzing and inviting atmosphere.
Around 4,000 people go through the centre every week and while they are dealt with medically, they also have the opportunity to take part in any of the 100 or so projects facilitated by the local community and run in and around the health centre. A social enterprise zone has seen the emergence of start-ups with 60/ 80 of them still viable businesses, including a stained glass window workshop still on the premises.
At the heart of the centre is the café which provides food and drink all day but, above all, is a place for people to mingle and participate in the projects. These include computer classes, yoga, an elderly art group known as Young at Art, English language lessons, and pottery. The practice is located right by a public park, which used to be called ‘dog shit green’ but now boasts beautiful sculptures and is well maintained, like the beautiful area off the park, where local gardeners can grow plants, flowers and vegetables.
Everyone can involve themselves including people suffering from drug addiction, and counselling is also available on site. There is help at hand to help people struggling with their finances, organising mobile phone contracts, dealing with energy supplies, and much more. Sorting out the finances to ease their minds and improve their health and wellbeing.
This is social prescribing in action, and it is now widespread in the NHS. Bromley-by-Bow health practice is a perfect example of how it can work ‘It’s all about bringing communities together,’ Sam explains. We offer compassion, friendship and it’s about having fun, assuming that everything is possible.’

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