Social prescribing

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Social prescribing is when health professionals refer patients to support in the community, in order to improve their health and wellbeing.[1] The concept has gained support in the NHS organisations of the United Kingdom as well as in Ireland[2] and the Netherlands.[3]

The goals of social prescribing are to reduce the rise of healthcare costs and easing pressure of general practice clinics.[1] A 2015 Commission in the UK estimated that about 20% of patient consultations were for social problems rather than medical problems.[4]


Doctors can refer some of their patients to a social prescribing specialist or link worker who can then suggest local social groups which they can participate in to improve their health and wellbeing.[5] These may include social enterprises, community businesses and local volunteer groups.


A 2016 review in The BMJ concluded that further, more robust testing was needed to determine how effective it was, noting that evidence in favour of social prescription came from small trials that were open to a range of biases.[1] A study of social prescription programs at 23 GP surgeries in central London found it produced a strong improvement in qualitative outcomes such as making participants less isolated, while quantitative outcomes such as general health and wellbeing were largely unchanged.[6][7]


In the London borough of Hackney, a social-prescribing scheme is in place. The local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCGs) tends to follow clinicians' lead, and so initiatives coming from doctors can make all the difference. Hackney CCG ran a tendering process for setting up social prescribing and got a service provider to implement it for them.


It is proposed to establish a National Academy for Social Prescribing in the UK.[3]

Healthy London Partnership has produced a report intended to help CCG commissioners make decisions about implementing social prescribing[8] and are also hosting a wiki specifically on Social Prescribing and Self Care.[9]

There are plans to recruit more than a thousand linkworkers in England.[10] The NHS Long Term Plan committed to recruiting at least 1000 trained social prescribing link workers in primary care networks by April 2021, with more in the following three years, so that at least 900,000 people will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bickerdike L, Booth A, Wilson PM, Farley K, Wright K (13 December 2016). "Social prescribing: less rhetoric and more reality. A systematic review of the evidence". BMJ Open. 2017 (7). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013384.
  2. ^ "What is social prescribing and how it can benefit your health". Irish Times. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Community activity as a path to better health". Financial Times. 20 November 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Plan to expand social prescribing in bid to tackle health inequalities". GP Online. 24 August 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Social Prescribing Network". Patient Outcomes in Health Research Group Projects. University of Westminster. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Social Prescribing: integrating GP and community health assets". The Health Foundation. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  7. ^ Sarah Kinsella; et al. (Wirral Council Business & Public Health Intelligence Team) (July 2015). Social Prescribing: A review of the evidence (PDF) (Report). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-04.
  8. ^ "Steps towards implementing self-care". Healthy London Partnership. NHS. Archived from the original on 2017-04-04.
  9. ^ "Social Prescribing and Self Care wiki". Healthy London Partnership. NHS. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  10. ^ "More 'social prescribers' to ease pressure on GPs". BBC. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2019.