Social Prescribing is the act of enabling people to be connected to a range of local, community-based services, groups and activities to meet their non-medical and social needs. Recognising that people’s health and wellbeing are determined mostly by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way.
The core principles of Social Prescribing are that it:
- Is a holistic approach focussing on Individuals needs
- Promotes health and wellbeing and can reduce health inequalities in a community setting, using non-clinical methods
- Addresses barriers to engagement and enables people to play an active part in their health
- Utilises and builds on the local community assets in developing and delivering the service or activity
- Aims to increase peoples control over their health and lives
- Empowers people to take control of their health and wellbeing
Link Workers give people time to and space, building a trusted relationship, in order to:
- Identify what matters to the person through shared decision making and personalised care and support planning
- Support the person to connect with their community and work in partnership
The NHS long term plan commits to embedding Social Prescribing Link Workers within every PCN multi-disciplinary team, as part of a wider shift towards universal personalised care. The NHS long-term plan (2019) marked a step change in ambition by incorporating social prescribing into its comprehensive model of personalised care. Composed of six programmes including personalised care planning and personal health budgets, the model aims to enable people, particularly those with more complex needs, to take greater control of their health and care.
Social Prescribers have many complementary skills to support primary care. Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.
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 service, housing associations and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations.
Social prescribing link workers will have a role in educating non-clinical and clinical staff within their PCN multi-disciplinary teams on what other services are available within the community and how and when patients can access them.
Social prescribing can help PCNs to strengthen community and personal resilience, reduce health inequalities and wellbeing inequalities by addressing the wider determinants of health, such as debt, poor housing and physical inactivity, by increasing people’s active involvement with their local diverse communities.
It particularly works for people with long term conditions, for people who are lonely or isolated, or have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing. Including MH can be complex, as they only see people with low level MH.
Work collaboratively with all local diverse partners to contribute towards supporting the local VCSE organisations and community groups to become sustainable and that community assets are nurtured, through sharing intelligence regarding any gaps or problems identified in local provision
There are no formal qualifications required to become a social prescribing link worker, but a the following experience and skills are required:
- NVQ Level 3, Advanced level or equivalent qualifications or working towards (recommended by NHS, but entirely up to local partners whether or not this is included, so you may want to check)
- Demonstrable commitment to professional and personal development
- Training in motivational coaching and interviewing or equivalent experience
- Experience of working directly in a community development context, adult health and social care, learning support or public health/health improvement (including unpaid work)
- Experience of partnership/collaborative working and of building relationships across a variety of organisations
- Knowledge of the personalised care approach
- Understanding of the wider determinants of health, including social, economic and environmental factors and their impact on communities, individuals, their families and carers
Accredited e-learning modules on personalised care and support planning, and on shared decision making, are now live through the Personalised Care institute. These tools will help SPs to support people to have health and care shaped around what’s important to them, and are core competencies in personalised care. SPs can register as a learner and they will get CPD points on completion and help support their professional portfolio.
There is also an online learning course for social prescribers available here.
- Take referrals from a wide range of agencies, working with GP practices within primary care networks, 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 (list not exhaustive).
- Provide personalised support to individuals, their families and carers to take control of their wellbeing, live independently and improve their health outcomes. Develop trusting relationships by giving people time and focus on ‘what matters to me’. Take a holistic approach, based on the person’s priorities and the wider determinants of health. Co produce a personalised support plan to improve health and wellbeing, introducing or reconnecting people to community groups and statutory services. The role will require managing and prioritising your own caseload, in accordance with the needs, priorities and any urgent support required by individuals on the caseload. It is vital that you have a strong awareness and understanding of when it is appropriate or necessary to refer people back to other health professionals/agencies, when what the person needs is beyond the scope of the link worker role – e.g. when there is a mental health need requiring a qualified practitioner.
- Draw on and increase the strengths and capacities of local communities, enabling local VCSE organisations and community groups to receive social prescribing referrals. Ensure they are supported, have basic safeguarding processes for vulnerable individuals and can provide opportunities for the person to develop friendships, a sense of belonging, and build knowledge, skills and confidence.
- Work together with all local partners to collectively ensure that local VCSE organisations and community groups are sustainable and that community assets are nurtured, by making them aware of small grants or micro-commissioning if available, including providing support to set up new community groups and services, where gaps are identified in local provision.
A further breakdown of the key tasks of a social prescribing link worker is available here.