People with worries such as housing difficulties, the demands of caring for a relative or struggles with stress and loneliness, are being helped to better health by a new community role.
Julie Lomas is a Wellbeing Community Co-ordinator supporting six GP practices in the Cynon South area and offers help for issues that may not need to be seen by a doctor.
Often the people she helps have made an appointment to see their GP to deal with symptoms, but Julie’s role is to address the cause and help put them in touch with support and services that can help. This then often eliminates the need to see the GP at all.
Julie, 48, who took up the role in January, said, “Many of the people I see just pour their hearts out and are finding it impossible to cope with whatever life has thrown at them.
“My job is to take a holistic approach to find out what the reasons are behind the anxieties and then put the right people around them to help them feel better.
“I have an obsession with helping people and sometimes just a small change can make a huge difference to the way someone feels.”
Julie is employed by the Cynon Valley primary care cluster which consists of a range of health and social care practitioners all working together to provide the right care and support for local patients.
Her new role is being highlighted as part of Cwm Taf University Health Board’s #YourLocalTeam campaign which aims to raise awareness of the range of professionals in the community who can help patients without the need to go to the GP.
Julie offers 45 minute appointments on set days in surgeries in Abercynon, Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash, Abercwmboi and Cwmaman.
Patients can self-refer or be referred by their GP, and her main aim is to listen to the root cause of the worry and then put them in touch with a support service.
The most common issues people talk to Julie about are depression and anxiety, social isolation, difficulties coping with being a carer, chronic pain conditions and worries about debt, benefits and housing.
She recently helped a woman who was struggling with a chronic pain condition coupled with the demands of caring for her elderly mother. She really wanted to go for a short holiday but didn’t think she could cope or that it would be possible.
Julie was able to signpost her to a Care and Support group who could help with care for her mother and also a support group that helped people learn how to manage long term conditions. The woman told Julie she did not recognise herself after attending the group and felt able to go away for a few days which was a huge benefit to her health and wellbeing.
Another recent appointment was with a young man who was suffering from acute depression and couldn’t cope with daily issues such as household bills. Julie was able to inform him about the free support offered by Rhondda Cynon Taff Council Supporting People team who were able to call on him once a week to check he was on top of his bills. She also rang a peer support group and arranged for the group leader to meet the man and provide help with his depression.
Having suffered a nervous breakdown herself in her late twenties, Julie has huge empathy for people who are struggling with mental health issues.
It was the help she received in her community that helped her to recover and is the key reason she works as wellbeing co-ordinator – she wants to help people like her.
She said, “I have huge empathy for people who are suffering from depression and anxiety because I’ve been through it, I’ve been where they’ve been.
“But I’m also an example of how things can get better. I began getting involved with volunteering to help my recovery and then shared my experiences with others.
“I knew then that I wanted to do something to help people like me and that’s why I just love this job.
“If I can do something good to help someone then maybe they won’t go to see the GP for a chat every week but will find the alternative support in the community helps them to feel better and improve their lives.”
To find about more about Julie’s role and other support available in the community, speak to staff at your GP surgery and follow #YourLocalTeam on social media.