Social prescribing

Social prescribing

Social prescribing enables primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. Social prescribing takes a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing, and connects people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.

What is social prescribing?

Social prescribing provides a way of linking patients in primary care and their carers with non-medical sources of support within the community. It is tailor-made for voluntary and community sector-led interventions and can result in:

  • better social and clinical outcomes for peope with long-term conditions and their carers;
  • most cost-efficient and effective use of NHS and social care resources; and
  • a wider, more diverse and responsive local provider base.

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 organisations.

There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people, such as improved quality of life and emotional wellbeing.

How does it fit within NHS policy?

One of the NHS Long Term Plan priorities is to provide more personalised care to help peope gain more control over their health when they need it.

As part of this work, through social prescribing, the range of support available to people will widen, diversify and become more accessible across the country. Link workers within Primary Care Networks will work with people to develop tailored plans and connect them to local groups and support services. The NHS Long Term Plan stated that over 1,000 trained social prescribing link workers will be in place by the end of 2020/21 rising further by 2023/24, with the aim that over 900,000 people are able to be referred to social prescribing schemes by then.

A link worker is a non-clinically trained person who works in a social prescribing service, and receives the person who has been referred to them. Briefly, the link worker is responsible for assessing a person’s needs and suggesting the appropriate resources for them to access. The link worker may also be known as a health advisor, health trainer or a community navigator.

A standard model of social prescribing has been developed in partnership with stakeholders, which shows the key elements that need to be in place for effective social prescribing:


Image taken from: NHS England – Social prescribing page (2019)

Further resources

NHS England has set up an online learning platform to share the latest resources and encourage collaboration. To join the platform, please contact

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