This is a guest blog by a medical applicant, Sarah Badar
Right now, there is so much going on- we have not only seen diseases like the
COVID-19 claim lives physically but mentally too. There is no doubt that adjusting to
these new changes has been hard for everyone! Especially for those dealing with
pre-existing issues. It can also be extremely distressing for healthcare professionals
when they cannot provide the type of aid that patients need within a clinical setting
and this is where social prescribing comes in!
What Is Social Prescribing?
Social prescribing is often seen as a method of community referral prescribed by
GP’s, nurses and other primary care professionals to enable patients to get involved
in non-clinical local communities. They assign patients to a community service in
order to reach people’s needs by taking holistic approach allowing patients to take
better control of their health
Imagine that you are attending an appointment at your local G.P and have
expressed concern surrounding your recent bursts of anxiety due to upcoming
exams. Your doctor taking this into consideration suggests that you attend weekly art
sessions at a community centre. You agree to this but you are hesitant, after
attending three sessions you feel calmer and less worried about your exams as you
have taken a new approach in the form of art to help combat this.
This is essentially what social prescribing does, it’s a mechanism for linking people
with non-medical sources of support within the community to improve physical,
emotional and mental wellbeing (1).
Methods of Social Prescribing
1. Sign posting- Individual sees a form of promotion for social prescribing
through a signpost or even a leaflet etc. This then leads the patient directly to
the service available.
2. Referral from a G.P- Individual expresses concerns G.P and then depending
on what has been collected from the patient history generated and what they
feel is the best suitable course of action for the patient, they may medically
refer them to a social prescribing activity.
3. Link Worker- Patient attends the G.P consultation and the general
practitioner appoints a Link Worker (Workers who are employed in non-clinical
roles). The link worker supports the patient towards finding a suitable group,
in which they would benefit greatly from in terms of their physical and mental
wellbeing while enabling them to develop skills, friendships and resilience.
Benefits of Social Prescribing
Personally, I feel that social prescribing is most efficacious when both parties seem
to be genuinely engaging with the concept and following the Enrolment, Engagement
and Adherence procedure (2).
Enrolment: Primary care professional’s acknowledgement and their willingness to offer a social prescription alongside the patient’s consideration of and acceptance of the prescription.
Engagement: The patient’s initial participation and association in the activity.
Adherence: Patient’s ongoing involvement with and/or the full uptake of prescribed activity.
Now that that’s been said, let’s discuss some of the positive implications that social
1. Reduces workload for General Practitioners
We cannot ignore the amount of work that the General Practitioners have to
carry out. They are normally our first point of contact when we wish to receive
medical treatment. Social prescribing can help relieve the stress of G.Ps of
not being able to cater to patients who have social needs by providing access
for patients through therapeutic projects which are provided by the local
authority and the voluntary sector can help dramatically.
Reports have further shown that implementing methods of social prescribing
have cut GP consultation rates by 28% and A&E attendance by 24%.
Social prescribing covers 70% of health and wellbeing not provided by the
NHS and can often be more important to patients than traditional biomedical
care as social prescribing can dramatically reduce their workload.
2. Increase in mental health and wellbeing
By seeking an external source of treatment, this can improve mental health
significantly by increasing awareness of skills, activities and behaviours
that improve and protect mental wellbeing.
New measures have been adopted to maintain mental health as the individual
has been exposed to a community setting leading to an increased uptake
of arts, leisure, education, volunteering based activities consequently,
reducing anxiety and depression levels.
Social prescribing has been identified as a means of self-management,
connecting individuals into non-medical sources of support and managing
factors that may have been affecting their health and wellbeing, such as
debt, housing and unemployment.
A study showed that of 342 individuals interviewed before and after being
introduced to social prescribing in the UK that 265 (77.5%) had an
improved well being score.(3)
3. More funding for research available
A considerable amount of funding goes towards the NHS with around £129
billion being spent in 2018/19.
If more people are being referred to available community services, this could
cut the amount of spending that the NHS disburses dramatically. The funding
could then be used to go towards research and create more innovative
approaches within the NHS.
However even with all the benefits social prescribing has, Social Prescribing
may not be a long-term fix as this method does hold some ethical concerns.
An example of this includes Kimberley Brownlee, a Professor of Philosophy at
the University of Warwick who stated how It may seem patronising to
prescribe socialising to someone dealing with poor mental health as it poses
as a superficial short term "solution" without properly examining the cause. (4)
With the above being said, I wholeheartedly believe that social prescribing
has many positive impacts which not only benefit the lives of patients but
additionally health care workers working within the NHS. This innovative
approach can help improve the overall quality of life significantly. It is
expected that in the long run at least 2.5 million people will have access to
social prescribing, with the current UK Secretary of State for Health and
Social Care, Matt Hancock announcing social prescribing as a priority and will
be available in every GP practice by 2024 as part of the NHS “five year
1. Social Prescribing - HSE.ie [Internet]. HSE.ie. 2018. Available from:
2. Husk K, Blockley K, Lovell R, Bethel A, Lang I, Byng R, et al. What
approaches to social prescribing work, for whom, and in what circumstances?
A realist review. Health & Social Care in the Community. 2019 Sep
3. Woodall J, Trigwell J, Bunyan A-M, Raine G, Eaton V, Davis J, et al.
Understanding the effectiveness and mechanisms of a social prescribing
service: a mixed method analysis. BMC Health Services Research. 2018 Aug
4. Apter C. The benefits - and downfalls - of social prescribing [Internet]. MHT.
2019 [cited 2020 Apr 26]. Available from:
5. One PC. Primary Care One - Social Prescribing [Internet].
www.primarycareone.wales.nhs.uk. [cited 2020 Apr 26]. Available from: