What is Social Prescribing?

To help reduce the need and so the cost of care for loved ones the government through the NHS is developing personalised care.

This represents an initiative to be developed between people, professionals and the health and care system. The aim is to enable people to stay well for longer and also provides a shift in power and decision making that enables people to have a voice, to be heard, and to be connected to each other and their communities. 

It means people have the opportunity to choose how best to live their lives with the support to do so. People are living longer with more complex health and care needs. People with one or more long-term condition now make up 30% of the population, account for 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of all outpatient appointments, and occupy 70% of hospital beds.

One million people over the age of 65 report being lonely. Such loneliness and social isolation, which affects people of all ages, leads to poorer health, higher use of medication, increased falls, and increased use of GP services

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.

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.




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