Social prescribing

Social prescribing is a key component of Universal Personalised Care.

A summary guide has been developed for people and organisations leading local implementation of social prescribing. It sets out what good social prescribing looks like and why social prescribing improves outcomes and experiences for people, their families and carers, as well as achieving more value from the system.

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 model - Collaborative, commissioning and partnership working; easy referral; workforce development; common outcomes framework; what matters to me; support for community groups.

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.

The social prescribing link workers will become an integral part of the multi-disciplinary teams which are part of primary care networks    They form one of five additional roles in the five year framework for GP contract reform with 100% reimbursement for the salary costs of the link workers.

Funding for the new social prescribing link workers became available to primary care networks (PCNs) from 1 July 2019, when the reformed GP contract began.

This is the biggest investment in social prescribing by any national health system, and legitimises community-based activities and support alongside medical treatment as part of personalised care.

Training and support for link workers in primary care networks

In some areas social prescribing is already well established. In other areas, less so. Across England, each CCG area was asked to create a shared local plan for social prescribing, to show how they will work with existing social prescribing schemes, local authorities, their emerging primary care networks, the voluntary and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, and people with lived experience.

These plans are already taking shape in many areas. To support the work of the new PCN link workers we are creating a suite of resources.

  • The Summary Guide, which gives a clear picture of what a good social prescribing scheme looks like. It also includes a Common Outcomes Framework to help measure the impact of social prescribing on people, the local system, and the voluntary and community sector.
  • The Reference Guide for PCNs with information on setting up social prescribing services including support for recruitment, induction and supervision. It also outlines what quality assurance measures are necessary, and how information can be gathered to help develop a consistent evidence base for social This document will be published on this web page in July 2019.
  • A welcome and induction pack for link workers in primary care networks.
  • Welcome webinar in July 2019.
  • Series of themed webinars starting in September 2019.
  • Learning coordinators in each region to facilitate peer support and learning opportunities.
  • Accredited online training available from autumn 2019.

Information about the webinars, online training and regional learning events will initially be circulated via CCG social prescribing leads and primary care networks. For more information contact


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.


Learning network

NHS England has set up an online learning platform to share the latest resources and encourage collaboration. To join the platform, please contact

Below is a summary of key documents and resources:

Contact details for further information