Word on Health

Word on Social Prescribing

Our grateful thanks to Bev Taylor from the National Academy for Social Prescribing and Vicki Kennedy Social Prescribing Manager at Sunderland Culture for their contributions to our radio feature which you can hear again via the audio player at the bottom of this page.

According to NHS England 

"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.

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.

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."

Social Prescribing critical to Scotland's Covid-19 recovery amid growing mental health concerns

"The Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission, established by the RSE (Royal Society of Edinburgh), has published a report in partnership with Support in Mind Scotland (SiMS), calling for decision-makers in Scotland to adopt a social prescribing approach to healthcare as a priority.

The report - A Desk Review of Social Prescribing: from origins to opportunities - states that non-medical approaches could alleviate pressure on the NHS and other public services in the wake of Covid, if community partners are adequately resourced to deliver tailored support across Scotland.

Currently in Scotland, between 25% and 50% of GP appointments focus on non-medical issues, such as social isolation, financial struggles, and bereavement.

Social prescribing, also known as community referral, allows GPs, nurses and other healthcare workers to signpost patients to support outside of health services, through community organisations, local support groups and holistic hubs.

One study in the report, written by SIMS' Policy Officer Ben Lejac and presented to the National Rural Mental Health Forum today (Wednesday 28 April), found that 78% of GPs reported prescribing antidepressants, despite believing that an alternative treatment would be more appropriate, but other approaches were either not available or had long waiting lists. 

The report highlights the intense pressure on health services due to delayed medical procedures and appointments during Covid-19, as well as growing mental health issues fuelled by the pandemic and urges leaders to invest in social prescribing.

A 2019 enquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee found that social prescribing had considerable potential for preventing long-term conditions and dependence on pharmaceutical prescriptions. Despite this study, the approach has not been rolled out nationally due to barriers such as funding and awareness.

Caroline Gardner FRSE, Chair of the RSE’s Post Covid Commission Inclusive Public Service Working Group said: “Social prescribing puts people at the centre of their own care.

"For social prescribing to become more than the sum of its parts, it needs to be embedded systematically across the whole of Scotland, matched with real leadership and resources.

"The report’s recommendations around awareness-raising, supporting a range of tailored options, resourcing the whole ‘system’, with improvements in accessibility and inclusion; must be underpinned by mechanisms for delivery. This cannot be a report that is allowed to sit on a shelf. The time is right for it to be enacted with and for the people of Scotland, and the RSE's Post-Covid”.

Frances Simpson, Chief Executive of Support in Mind Scotland said: “Research conducted with those with lived experience of poor mental health clearly shows that they looked for support in their communities in a non-clinical, low-level setting, pre-crisis. Steps have been taken towards social prescribing being used across Scotland, but this report clearly states that there is much more to be done.

“There are many more opportunities for health professionals to work in partnership with individuals, communities, businesses and the charity sector to support people through social prescribing.

"Support in Mind Scotland is keen to use its links with partners to learn from this report and build a diverse network of social prescribing led by the needs of individuals in different areas of Scotland.” 

Bringing together leading practitioners and thinkers from across society, the Post-COVID-19 Futures Commission is an initiative run by the Royal Society of Edinburgh to help identify and address some of the immediate policy implications and challenges arising from the coronavirus outbreak. Visit the Post-Covid-19 Futures Commission"


"The Welsh Government has signalled strong support for social prescribing approaches through legislation and a range of policy statements. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and the Programme for Government Taking Wales Forward and Prosperity for All, are all founded on a model of health which recognises the impact of social determinants on health and wellbeing and draws on all sources of help and support.

The National Professional Lead for Primary Care in Wales, has championed the role of wellbeing services and called for more systematic ways for people to access or be referred to such support.

Following a National Primary Care event in October 2016 social prescribing has gained a strong profile in Wales, both locally at Primary Care Cluster level and at a national level through discussions facilitated by the National Professional Lead for Primary Care and the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. It has subsequently been identified as an area of interest by the Directors of Primary Care and the National Primary and Community Care Board."

Listen to this weeks radio report

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