Social prescribing

Social prescribing – sometimes referred to as community referral – is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services.

Traditional medicine only covers about 20% of peoples’ health and wellbeing. The rest includes employment, education, environment and creativity/spirituality.

Recognising that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

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.

There are many different models for social prescribing, but most involve a link worker or navigator who works with people to access local sources of support.

Core principles for healthcare professionals

The core principles of social prescribing are that it:

  • is a holistic approach focussing on individual need
  • promotes health and wellbeing and reduces health inequalities in a community setting, using non-clinical methods
  • addresses barriers to engagement and enables people to play an active part in their care
  • utilises and builds on the local community assets in developing and delivering the service or activity
  • aims to increase people’s control over their health and lives

Understanding local needs

The Deanery can be a good source of information as it is ideally placed to provide a good understanding of local needs in relation to community life. Local needs include, but are not limited to, social isolation, neighbourhood belonging, housing, debt and unemployment, and people’s emotional wellbeing and resilience.

The Deanery Briefing: "Quality of life for everyone - how do we make it happen?" explores how deaneryes can play a significant part in Social Prescribing.