Walking in their shoes: a collaborative journey towards healthier communities

11 Dec 2023
SLA - Connect

In this blog, Christopher D’Souza, Lead Commissioner (Building Healthier Communities), Public Health, Lambeth Council, and Dr Prema Ravi, GP Partner, Chelsfield Surgery and Clinical Director for Orpington PCN, share their experience of participating in our peer-to-peer exchange programme, Walking in Their Shoes.

Christopher’s perspective

I lead Lambeth Public Health’s Building Healthier Communities programme. Our aim is to tackle health inequalities and support flourishing neighbourhoods. Central to this is engaging with local residents, voluntary, community and faith sectors and other stakeholders on a neighbourhood level to better understand the health challenges and co-design tailored and impactful solutions. Co-designing community led events and delivering health and wellbeing hubs is a key strand of work. We have developed seven so far with another three in development which will ensure residents have access to food, welfare advice, mental health support and a range of other activities that meet local needs and support residents’ wellbeing.

I joined the “Walking in Their Shoes” programme as I wanted to meet and learn from someone who had managed to bring key GP and other preventative health services out of health settings into community venues. I was paired with Dr Prema Ravi, a Primary Care Network (PCN) Clinical Director from Bromley.

Prema identified that elderly patients were placing a high demand on local GP services often with issues that did not need a prescription. She partnered with a local organisation that has a spacious modern hall and kitchen and volunteers were recruited to provide tea/coffee and food. Both GP and also other services tailored to the needs of elderly residents were encouraged to provide in-reach e.g. podiatry, BP checks etc. I attended a celebration for the coronation where almost 100 people were having a fantastic get together!

Here in Lambeth, our hubs work closely with our local PCN, especially our social prescribers. We are also looking at how we can deliver BP checks and are now in discussions with Guy’s and St. Thomas’s about a range of community services having a presence at our hubs e.g. weight management and smoking cessation as well as our Homeless Health team.

Prema and some of her colleagues also came to Lambeth to see a number of our Building Healthier Communities projects including a community health and wellbeing hub, social supermarket, Ascension Trust Beacon Hub (that works with black and other minority communities) and also our health and wellbeing bus.

I would wholeheartedly encourage participation in the “Walking in Their Shoes” programme as a great opportunity to share challenges and solutions!

Prema’s perspective

I was delighted to walk in Christopher’s shoes. My visit to Lambeth, along with my Primary Care Network Co-coordinator and Public Health Intelligence Officer apprentice, was very useful in observing neighbourhood work in health services in Lambeth. It was an excellent opportunity to learn how to develop a neighbourhood team with community providers and a Bromley third sector enterprise.

It was exciting to learn about the Norwood community shop, Ascension Trust Beacon community hubs, food hub and the community vaccination bus. My team identified the cohort that benefits more from these kinds of projects including Penge and Crays PCNs in Bromley. In September, I communicated about these projects to relevant clinical directors and Bromley ICB in our CD and ICB workshop. While developing the neighbourhood team, I have been growing beyond just being a leader to also being a connector, as suggested by Cormac Russell.

I have learnt a lot through this Walking in Their Shoes programme, and I strongly recommend this programme to other participants.