Social prescribing

Social prescribing is a way of linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community. It provides GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and well-being. While there is no widely agreed definition of social prescribing, or ‘community referrals’, reports on social prescribing include an extensive range of prescribed interventions and activities.

People are living longer and as they get older, developing long term health conditions. Their health is affected by a wide range of factors including employment, housing, debt, social isolation and culture. These factors are not amenable to traditional health interventions. The NHS England Five Year Forward View calls for a radical upgrade in prevention and public health, and greater engagement with people and communities to harness the energy and potential they have.

Social prescribing presents the NHS and local authorities with an opportunity to do this. It helps people to make use of existing community services, resources and facilities which can help them manage or overcome these social factors. Social prescribing can help to improve the health of local people, the quality of care and services, and productivity as part of sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

We have published a report to help London commissioners take the first steps towards implementing social prescribing for their populations. This resource, Steps towards implementing self care: a focus on social prescribing for commissioners, is not a definitive guide but offers practical assistance on what we have learned so far from the best available evidence to support local implementation. A slide pack, Social prescribing and expert experience programmes modellling, provides data on how many people across London could benefit from social prescribing and how these initiatives could save the NHS in London £533 million by 2021. 

Download the report 'Steps towards implementing self care: a focus on social prescribing for commissioners' and supporting slide pack

In September 2016, we held an event for members of the public and representatives from London's health and social care (including CCGs, local authorities, NHS and voluntary sector providers, academia and users of services) to share information about the potential of social prescribing and how to support its local implementation and success.

The event included presentations, inspirational talks from people sharing their experience of setting up and delivering social prescribing schemes, and workshops examining it in more detail. It will provided opportunities to discuss a range of challenges commissioners and providers face and how to overcome them. The event will also showcase the latest return on investment data modelled on London’s population to inform STP planning and implementation.

Download the September 2016 event materials