What is the PCN Service?
Primary Care Networks connect GP surgeries with healthcare partners such as mental health services, pharmacies, hospitals and volunteering groups to provide more coordinated care for people within easy reach of their homes.
What I Love About My Job
“Mental health has always been a bit of a passion for me,” explains Charlotte Redding. She has her own lived experience of anxiety and low mood, as have many of her friends and relatives, and she has often found herself to be their “go-to person, especially with friends who are struggling with their mental health”. Being able to combine her training and lived experience to make a difference to people’s lives is why she finds the role so rewarding. “Just being able to help people is amazing,” she says. “It feels like I’m doing what I’m on this planet to do.”

Charlotte came to the job having previously been a support worker for adults with special educational needs and disabilities. “That’s where I started to see there was quite a gap in the mental health support that they received,” she says. After a decade working in retail, she took a degree in psychology, knowing that she wanted to understand better why people think the way they do.

How the PCN Service Works
Norfolk and Waveney Mind has a team of mental health specialists known as Enhanced Recovery Workers who work in medical practices around the region. Charlotte is one of them, working in six GP surgeries in the Broadland area.

“I work in one surgery a day, on a rolling rota,” she explains. “All of the surgeries are amazing. The surgery staff are great, so are the receptionists. I have six patients booked in for the day, which can range from people with mild to moderate mental ill health. It could be bereavement, low mood, anxiety, stress or people who have had substance abuse issues in the past. There’s a wide variety, so no day is the same.”

Patients may have been referred via GPs or mental health nurses, or through having phoned the surgery reception to say they’re struggling at the moment, at which point receptionists book them in.

What the Role of PCN Recovery Worker Entails
“I see patients for up to six sessions and they talk about what they’re going through, what’s led them to where they are now, what’s happening in their life, why they’re feeling the way they are. I try to give them that really nice open space to talk about what they’re going through. We can talk about coping strategies and techniques, and give them little goals to work on during the week between appointments. And then I can signpost them to the different support that’s in the area, whether it’s the GP or social prescribers or the Norfolk and Waveney Mind REST hubs. There’s a wide range of support, but people don’t generally know that it’s there.”

Some patients just need to talk things through in a safe environment, and others arrive in considerable distress. “People come in and sometimes they’re so upset,” Charlotte says. “They come in and just give you everything. There’s often a lot of tears or frustration. As you get to know that person, you try to bring up stuff that they enjoy, find out what makes their life worth living and why they get up in the morning.

“It’s about seeing them leave with their head held a little bit higher or a smile on their face. You know that you’ve made a difference to that person’s life in that day. It’s not fixed the problem, because only they can do that, but you have lifted them a little bit and given them a bit of hope.”

In one patient’s case, Charlotte watched them undergo a remarkable transformation through a combination of their own effort and her gentle guidance.

“They were becoming agoraphobic, they didn’t like to go out,” she recalls. “They had a fear of being sick, so they couldn’t eat with their family. They couldn’t sit and watch a movie with their family because they were worried about if they needed to go to be sick. So their life was really limited as to what they could do.

“By the time they left me, they were signing up to driving lessons. They were able to eat toast in a cafe. They were able to get coffee when they were out and about. There was still a long way to go, but they had come so far. That was their work, their effort. It was just so amazing to see that.”

Due to the fantastic role our PCN Service offers, we are expanding our services and are now recruiting for more PCN Recovery Workers. If you want to make an impact on someone’s mental health and earn a salary from something you are passionate about, come and join us as a PCN Recovery Worker. Current adverts are listed on our website’s ‘Work for Us’ page.

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