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Social prescribing young choir

Social prescribing in action

This page aims to raise awareness and highlight the benefits of social prescribing not only in general practice but across all areas of nursing and the wider health care environment.

Different models and approaches to social prescribing are also highlighted. There are also links to associated and relevant resources, whilst not an exhaustive list, nurses can choose what models and information will be most appropriate for them and their practice population.

Social prescribing enables healthcare professionals to refer patients to a vast range of local non-medical services that offer support for social, emotional or practical needs. Many Clinical Commissioning Groups and local authorities are already investing in social prescribing schemes, which are run mainly by the voluntary sector. The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) group have been running social prescribing projects for many years. 

Examples include:

  • gardening schemes
  • healthy eating/exercise
  • singing groups
  • walking football
  • ballet for all ages.

In the recently published NHS Long Term Plan (NHS LTP), it is hoped that from next year other professional bodies including police, ambulance and fire services will also be able to refer into this service. Please refer to the NHS LTP for more information. 

Watch the videos below to find out more about social prescribing:

  • What is social prescribing?
  • Social prescribing in Lancs and South Cumbria
  • Social prescribing - family action

Social prescribing connects people to resources within their community, often through the support of a link worker. Link workers work with individuals to produce a personalised plan to enable them to stay healthy and maintain wellbeing. Social prescribing is more than a method of signposting, but rather a way in which people can be helped to take active steps to seek out support and engage with their communities.

The social prescribing link workers will become an integral part of the multi-disciplinary teams which are part of primary care networks. They form one of five additional roles in the five year framework for GP contract reform with 100% reimbursement for the salary costs of the link workers. Funding for the new social prescribing link workers became available to primary care networks (PCNs) from 1 July 2019, when the reformed GP contract began (NHS England).

Watch the video to find out more about Primary Care Networks.

Why now? 

Challenges in general practice are not new however, with sobering statistics around retention and recruitment of both General practitioners (GP’s) and General Practice Nurses (GPN) resulting in practice closures (King's Fund, 2016, Ipsos MORI, 2016). Reductions in services inevitably impacts on wellbeing. Increased demand and challenges of an ageing population require innovation and different ways of working. Helping people to stay well and live well ensures they use fewer services. 

  • If general practice fails the whole NHS fails (BMJ, 2016)
  • General practice provides over 300 million patient consultations each year (Monitor, 2015)
  • 2.5 million patients across England may see their GP surgeries close in the next 5 years creating a “catastrophic” impact on patient care, (RCGP, 2018)
  • It has been estimated that around 20% of patients consult their GP for what is primarily a social problem (Work Foundation, 2017)
  • 76% of GPs report that 1 to 5 patients a day come to their surgery because they are lonely (Lonely visits to the GP, Campaign to End Loneliness, 2013)
Social prescribing couple dancing

General Practice Nursing Forum

Find out more about the General Practice Nursing Forum's plans and how forum members are represented.

Page last updated - 24/01/2023