A couple of weeks ago, I attended a very interesting presentation at a local GP surgery on social prescribing. It’s all about trying to help patients with the illnesses and problems they have in a new and different way rather than by writing out yet another prescription.

One GP said that depression is the third most common condition he sees in his surgery. Drugs can help but so can other things like encouraging people to get out and about, take up exercise, join a community group or have someone to talk to about their problems. The causes of depression can be many, including what has happened to people in their lives, the loss of a job, relationship breakdown, being in debt or loneliness.

Leeds now has a new service provided by the voluntary sector. It employs link workers who take referrals from local agencies and GP practices. A link worker sees the patient and gives them time, focuses on what matters to them, agrees a shared plan and introduces them to community groups or others who can help them with things such as housing and benefit problems.

What really struck me about this new approach was being told that 59% of GPs who took part in the trial think that it will help reduce their workload. Why? Because they see a lot of patients for whom the answer is not another drug and what they really need is something else that up until now the NHS has found it difficult to provide. Social prescribing is a new way forward. I think it’s a great idea and I really hope it succeeds, although we still have quite a way to go to provide enough specialist mental health support.

Complaints about bus services in South Leeds are sadly all too common. Reliability, fares, routes changing and above all not having any control over what happens. The recent changes made to the No.1 bus route at the beginning of September is a case in point, with First Bus at present being unable to confirm that the iconic route will be reinstated once the works on the Headrow have been completed.

Could we now have a chance to change this given the news that both First Bus and Arriva are putting their services in Leeds up for sale?

I’ll come straight to the point. I think our bus services should be publicly-run, as they are in London. Then we can get a grip and make real progress on integration between bus and rail. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is planning to invest millions in improving bus services in Leeds and across West Yorkshire. Our council Leader, Judith Blake, has been leading calls for bus services to be brought back under public control using a London-style franchising model. Judith says that “privatisation and deregulation has been nothing short of disastrous.” I agree. If bus regulation is good enough for our capital city, then it’s certainly good enough for Leeds.

I recently heard the very sad news that Pam Reed has passed away. Pam was a long-standing Hunslet resident and a well-known local figure. She was a school governor, a responsible adult – supporting young people who have got themselves into trouble – and together with her husband Sid, she represented the very best of Hunslet Labour; loyal, hard-working and utterly steadfast. All our thoughts are with Sid and the family at this very difficult time.

And finally, the campaign to ensure that Hunslet’s spire continues to grace our skyline has my full support. Our city is made up of lots of different communities, and each one has its own landmark. The spire of St Mary’s Church is a striking one. Let’s make sure we keep it.

First published in the November 2019 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here.
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