Fact Sheet Fact Sheet

Social Prescribing

Social prescribing seeks to support patient's needs holistically. This fact sheet explores how to do this.

Last updated

on 15.06.2018

  1. Social prescribing supports people to take greater control of their own health
  2. Holistic assessment can identify areas of support needed
  3. Having a directory of local voluntary and community sector organisations can help your team refer easily

Holistic care looks at the patient as a whole, considering their needs beyond the physical, such as social, psychological, emotional, economic and spiritual needs.

Social prescribing recognises that health is more than healthcare, with these holistic factors all playing a role. It tries to address these by referring on to organisations outside of healthcare. Migrants can be in isolated and vulnerable positions, and may benefit from community links.

An example of social prescribing below shows the range of services involved.

Jenny was seen by her GP, who referred her for antenatal care. The social prescribing in Jenny’s case involved:

  • Referring her to the food bank;
  • Linking her in with a bump- buddy group;
  • Signposting her to the local migrant centre for legal advice as she was worried about her immigration status.

The following information is taken from the King's Fund page on social prescribing, linked to below (King's Fund 2017).

What is Social Prescribing?

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

Social prescribing:

  • seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way;
  • aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health;
  • can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations;
  • is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, and many schemes are focused on improving mental health and physical well-being;
  • examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

Those who could benefit from social prescribing schemes include people with mild or long-term mental health problems, vulnerable groups, people who are socially isolated, and those who frequently attend either primary or secondary health care.

There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and well-being outcomes. Studies have pointed to improvements in areas such as quality of life and emotional wellbeing, mental and general wellbeing, and levels of depression and anxiety. For more information, see the King's Fund link.

What To Do

  • keep an up-to-date directory of local and national community and voluntary organisations;
  • encourage all members of the team to be active in social prescribing;
  • consider using a social assessment form (see, for example, the MdM form) to identify areas a patient may require support;
  • think of social prescribing at the first assessment and health check;
  • share experiences with colleagues locally of organisations.

Further information