Published on

18 June 2024

Council jumping for joy at award win for health app

The JOY app has helped thousands of people to access health services in the borough

Digital Impact Award

The JOY App, a social prescription software app co-developed by Wokingham Borough Council, IT company Pungo and partners from across the health and voluntary sector, has scooped a prestigious award.

It had been named as a finalist in the Digital Impact category at this year's Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards, which were held in London on Wednesday 12 June.

The JOY app was funded through the Digital Cities initiative and Better Care Fund and was created to help reduce the difficulty faced by residents in accessing health services, as well as helping to ease the strain on providers.

In the last year, the JOY App has supported nearly 5,000 people in the borough, leading to a 23 per cent reduction in the number of GP appointments requested by those people, with 88 per cent of patients reporting an increase in their wellbeing after using the app.

A beacon of inspiration

This is largely thanks to members of voluntary sector, who deliver the many services available through JOY to residents in a timely and efficient manner.

The judges were unanimous in their praise was for what they described as a ‘transformative’ app and ‘a beacon of inspiration’ that everyone in the UK should look up to, saying the impact it had made was ‘truly groundbreaking’.

They said: “Starting small but now a national force, it has revolutionised the way health and wellbeing are approached, proving its effectiveness through measurable outcomes, like reducing GP appointments. Its innovative approach not only captivated the judges, but also addressed complex issues, such as data sharing with finesse.”

Matt Pope, executive director for children, adults and health, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have received such high praise from the judges and to have won our first LGC award. A tremendous amount of effort and co-production went into producing JOY and it is wonderful to see it recognised in this way.

“JOY is about making sure residents can access the right support services quickly and efficiently. This reduces the pressure on services locally, such as GPs and adult social care, but also makes their experience better.

“The development of JOY was made much easier and more meaningful by speaking to people with experience of using the healthcare system. We were able to create something brilliant that is having a real impact on people’s lives. This is also down to the hard work of the voluntary sector, which delivers the wide-ranging benefits of this app. Without them, this would not be possible.”

Between 20 and 50 per cent of people visiting a GP have a health and wellbeing issue that can’t be addressed by their doctor or medicine alone, which is leading to pressure on the limited resources available and delaying people in getting the help they actually need.

It can also have a knock-on effect on other services, with those suffering from problems with mobility, loneliness, social isolation and mental health issues more likely to call on statutory services, such as adult social care, acute hospitals and community nursing.

In order to address this, the council worked closely with a range of partners, including GPs, social prescribers, health and wellbeing providers and service users to better understand the issues.

Breaking new ground in health and social care

Having identified the issue, the council and its partners worked with IT start-up Pungo to look at digital solutions. Initial development involved bringing together six primary care networks, 12 GP surgeries, a community nursing provider, several council teams and a large and diverse voluntary sector to make sure the solution met the needs of a range of users.

Alistair Whittle, head of growth at Joy, said: “We are thrilled to celebrate Wokingham Borough Council's prestigious win at the LGC awards for their deployment of Joy. This is the culmination of several years of hard-work, co-development and true partnership working. We’d like to extend our gratitude to everyone at Wokingham Borough Council who has made this possible and we are proud to be part of an initiative that has broken new ground in health and social care interventions.”

Since launching with six voluntary sector services on offer, the JOY app has continued to grow and now offers 131 services from across all sectors, including adult social care, sport and leisure and community nursing. 

The JOY app offers a range of services, including the JOY marketplace, where residents and professionals can find local health and wellbeing services, which might meet their needs before making referrals. There is also the JOY case management platform, which allows care providers to bring client information, such as case notes, referrals and outcome data into a single place so it can be managed more efficiently and appointments can be co-ordinated.

Feedback from users includes praise for how easy and intuitive using the App is, how everything is there in one place, and how much more responsive to local need their services can be now they have such detailed data and feedback to use.

The LGC Awards are one of the premier awards for local government and celebrate the best of outstanding practice and cutting-edge innovation across the country, as well as working in partnership to achieve great outcomes for communities.

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