Social prescribing

Social prescribing is a means of enabling GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer people to ‘services’ in their community instead of offering only medicalised solutions. Often the first point of referral is a link worker or ‘community connector’ who can talk to each person about the things that matter to them. Together they can co-produce a social prescription that will help to improve their health and wellbeing.

The community activities range from art classes to singing groups, from walking clubs to gardening, and to many other interest groups.  It is taking off across the country, particularly with people who are lonely or isolated; people with mild mental health issues who may be anxious or depressed; and, those who struggle to engage effectively with services.

It is also relevant to people with wider social issues such as poverty, debt, housing, relationship problems, all of which impact on their health and wellbeing.  Very often these people have frequent repeat visits to their doctor or to their local emergency department  – effectively trapping them in a ‘revolving door’ of services.

What’s happening already?

  • Nearly half of all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England are investing in social prescribing programmes
  • 1 in 5 GPs regularly refer patients to social prescribing. 40 per cent would refer if they had more information about available services (July 2017, GP Online Survey)
  • The General Practice Forward View has identified 10 high impact actions to support practices to manage the demand on their services. Personalising care around the needs of the individual is captured in the 10 actions, through commitment to supporting self care and to extending social prescribing.


Social prescribing is affecting GP consultation rates, A&E attendance, hospital stays, medication use, and social care. The University of Westminster led an evidence review, looking at the impact of social prescribing on demand for NHS Healthcare. They found an average of 28 per cent fewer GP consultations and 24% fewer A&E attendances, where social prescribing ‘connector’ services are working well.

It is also improving people’s health and wellbeing and is contributing to building stronger communities.

Next steps for 2018-19

  • We are encouraging all CCGs to work with their local partners to commission one-stop social prescribing connector schemes in their areas. Where this is working well, all GPs are able to refer people with wider needs
  • We are developing an agreed model of social prescribing and a quality assurance framework to support it
  • Local areas are being supported to complete a maturity matrix to benchmark their local schemes
  • We are developing regional learning networks for social prescribing champions
  • We are working with Healthy London Partnership to learn from and spread social prescribing best practice across London.

Case studies

These case studies provide more information about how social prescribing is being provided in different areas of the country: