Social prescribing is a key component of Universal Personalised Care.
Social prescribing is a way for local agencies to refer people to a link worker. Link workers give people time, focusing on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.
Link workers also support existing community groups to be accessible and sustainable, and help people to start new groups, working collaboratively with all local partners.
Social prescribing works for a wide range of people, including people:
- with one or more long-term conditions
- who need support with their mental health
- who are lonely or isolated
- who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.
When social prescribing works well, people can be easily referred to link workers from a wide range of local agencies, including general practice, pharmacies, multi-disciplinary teams, hospital discharge teams, allied health professionals, fire service, police, job centres, social care services, housing associations and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. Self-referral is also encouraged.
A standard model of social prescribing has been developed in partnership with stakeholders, which shows the key elements that need to be in place for effective social prescribing;
Social prescribing complements other approaches, such as active signposting. This is a ‘light touch’ approach where existing staff in local agencies provide information to signpost people to services, using local knowledge and resource directories. Active signposting works best for people who are confident and skilled enough to find their own way to services after a brief intervention.
Social prescribing link workers
In the Long Term Plan NHS England committed to building the infrastructure for social prescribing in primary care:
- there will be 1,000 new social prescribing link workers in place by 2020/21, with significantly more after that, so that
- at least 900,000 people will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24.
This is part of the drive to Universal Personalised Care that will see at least 2.5 million people benefiting from personalised care by 23/24.
Social prescribing link workers are becoming an integral part of the multi-disciplinary teams in primary care networks (PCNs). They are part of the additional roles in the five year framework for GP contract reform and are included in the Network Direct Enhanced Service Contract for 2020/21.
There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
Though there is a need for more robust and systematic evidence on the effectiveness of social prescribing, social prescribing schemes may lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services, including GP attendance. 59% of GPs think social prescribing can help reduce their workload.
Support for link workers in primary care networks
An extensive programme of support and development is available to social prescribing link workers and primary care networks.
Social prescribing NHS Futures collaboration platform is an online network for sharing resources and for discussion. Membership is open to link workers, PCNs and colleagues involved in social prescribing. To join email firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is a summary of other useful sources of information:
- What is social prescribing – The Kings Fund, February 2017
- Social prescribing animation – Healthy London Partnership
- Making Sense of Social Prescribing – University of Westminster
- Social prescribing: a pathway to work? – The Work Foundation, Lancaster University, February 2017
- Spotlight on the Ten High Impact Actions – Royal College of GPs
- Social prescribing – a guide for local authorities
- A review of the evidence assessing impact of social prescribing on healthcare demand and cost implications – University of Westminster
- Creative Health – All Party Parliamentary Group report
- What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing? A scoping review Nov 2019 – World Health Organisation, November 2019
- What are the health benefits of physical activity? -Public Health England, 2019
- Review of evidence on the outcomes of sports and physical activity – Sport England, 2017