The Prince of Wales thanked NHS general practice and primary care staff for their heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, during a visit to St Austell Healthcare.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the county’s largest GP practice on day two of a three-day visit to Cornwall, and acknowledged the commitment of St Austell Healthcare in their sensitive support of local people in and around the town during the pandemic.
St Austell Healthcare is focusing on local health and social care organisations working together to meet the health needs of local patients, and the royal visitors heard about the work staff had done during COVID-19.
During their visit yesterday (Tuesday 21 July), the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall spent time talking to a number of clinicians working within the practice, the social prescribing team, voluntary sector and care home and community nursing representatives.
Social prescribing is a big focus for the practice and patients are linked with community services to help boost their wellbeing.
Speaking to staff at St Austell Healthcare, Prince Charles said: “What we are witnessing is a whole community working together to help each other, it’s a shining example of what is possible and what we should continue to strive to do."
He acknowledged that the team had created all sorts of virtual systems of communication that are linking the most vulnerable with a vast range of sources of help from the health service and volunteers.
A full tour of the surgery’s services and meetings with social prescribing partners at St Austell Healthcare was not possible due to social distancing measures in place. However, a small number of the team were able to provide Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall with a number of examples of how social prescribing has an effective role in wider primary care within the St Austell community.
Dr Stewart Smith, GP partner at St Austell Healthcare, said: “It has been wonderful to have the recognition of all the progress we have made in St Austell over the last five years. It was also great to showcase integrated working with representatives from home re-enablement services, district nurses, the care home sector and voluntary sector.
“This was a celebration of not only St Austell Primary Care Network (PCN) but of the progress made in working together in Cornwall during COVID-19. From boardroom to front-line services we have seen everyone working together like never before, whilst the battle against COVID-19 goes on, health, social care and wellbeing have sound footings due to the new found collaborative spirit in the county.”
Hayley Burgoyne, head of social prescribing, added: “It was an honour to meet The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Prince Charles was interested to hear about our PCN and the social prescribing service we offer. He took a particular interest in our engagement with the community and voluntary sector and mobilising volunteers.”
Dr Michael Dixon, NHS England’s clinical champion for social prescribing and chair of the Institute for Social Prescribing with the South West Academic Science Network, accompanied the royal visitors. He said: “It is a tremendous credit to the work of St Austell Healthcare and social prescribing link workers across the South West that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have chosen to honour their work today.
“GPs across the country have increasingly recognised the value of social prescribing to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients. Their collective and practical dedication has been a lifeline for many communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”