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What is social prescribing?

Sometimes what people need is to be connected into their local community, where they develop friendships, skills and resilience.
a picture showing an elderly person's hand doing some knitting.

Not all health issues need, or have, a medical solution. Sometimes what people need is to be connected into their local community, for example, an older person who is lonely, going to a knitting group where they develop friendships, skills and resilience. Young people might benefit from sports activities, drama workshops, conservation work or volunteering roles to improve their physical or mental health and wellbeing.

Who can social prescribing help?

Social prescribing works for a wide range of people including those:

  • with one or more long-term conditions
  • who need support with their mental wellbeing
  • who are lonely or isolated
  • who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

You can be referred to a social prescribing scheme by your GP or other health and social care professional. You may also be able to refer yourself.

What is a social prescribing link worker?

A social prescribing link worker will work with you to consider your wider wellbeing needs. They will give you time to focus on ‘what matters to you’ and take a whole-person approach to your health and wellbeing. This can include shared decision-making and/or personalised care and support planning. The link worker then links you into community groups and other services for any practical and emotional support, where it exists in your local area.

Social prescribing is not a new concept. It has existed in various forms within voluntary and community groups, public health and local authorities since the 1990’s and some even earlier. The Bromley by Bow Centre was established in 1984.

The NHS has big plans for social prescribing. In the NHS England Long Term Plan, it describes having 1,000 new link workers in place by 2020/21 and more to follow. The NHS wants everyone to have access to a social prescribing service through local primary and community networks.

Here is a short animation which explains a little more about social prescribing and the sorts of things you can expect.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

To give you an idea of what a difference social prescribing can make to someone’s life, watch this King’s Fund video of Debs describing her own experience.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

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