Link Working & Social Prescribing

Social Prescribing: Short definition 

Enabling healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker, to co-design a nonclinical social prescription to improve their health and wellbeing. 

Social Prescribing: Fuller definition 

A means of enabling GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker - to provide them with a face to face conversation during which they can learn about the possibilities and design their own personalised solutions, i.e. ‘co-produce’ their ‘social prescription’- so that people with social, emotional or practical needs are empowered to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector. 

Social Prescribing Network (2016) [download]

"Social prescribing enables healthcare practitioners to refer patients to a range of non-clinical services. Primarily, but not solely, directed at people with long-term conditions, social prescribing harnesses assets within the voluntary and community sectors to improve and encourage self-care and facilitate health-creating communities. There is increasing interest in social prescribing as a means of addressing complex health, psychological and social issues presented in primary care, as well as its potential to reduce health inequalities. "

(Moffatt, S., Steer, M., Lawson, S., Penn, L., & O’Brien, N., 2017, p1)

Social Prescribing Research and Guidelines

Recommended Overview

The College of Medicine and Social Prescribing Network (22 Oct, 2022) REPORT: Social Prescribing, The Evidence Base 

Full Reading List

Alderwick, H. A., Gottlieb, L. M., Fichtenberg, C. M., & Adler, N. E. (2018). Social Prescribing in the US and England: Emerging Interventions to Address Patients’ Social Needs. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 54(5), 715-718. doi10.1016/j.amepre.2018.01.039

Baker, K., & Irving, A. (2016). Co‐producing approaches to the management of dementia through social prescribing. Social Policy & Administration, 50(3), 379-397. 

Bertotti, M., Frostick, C., Hutt, P., Sohanpal, R., & Carnes, D. (2018). A realist evaluation of social prescribing: an exploration into the context and mechanisms underpinning a pathway linking primary care with the voluntary sector. Primary health care research & development, 19(3), 232-245. 

Bhatti, S., Rayner, J., Pinto, A. D., Mulligan, K., & Cole, D. C. (2021). Using Self-Determination theory to understand the social prescribing process: a qualitative study. BJGP open.   

Bickerdike, L., Booth, A., Wilson, P. M., Farley, K., & Wright, K. (2017). Social prescribing: less rhetoric and more reality. A systematic review of the evidence. BMJ Open, 7(4), e013384. 

Carnes, D., Sohanpal, R., Frostick, C., Hull, S., Mathur, R., Netuveli, G., ... & Bertotti, M. (2017). The impact of a social prescribing service on patients in primary care: a mixed methods evaluation. BMC Health Services Research, 17(1), 835. 

Chatterjee, H. J., Camic, P. M., Lockyer, B., & Thomson, L. J. (2018). Non-clinical community interventions: a systematised review of social prescribing schemes. Arts & Health, 10(2), 97-123. 

Chng, N. R., Hawkins, K., Fitzpatrick, B., O'Donnell, C., MacKenzie, M., Wyke, S., & Mercer, S. (2021). Implementing social prescribing in primary care in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation: process evaluation of the ‘Deep End’community links worker programme. British Journal of General Practice. 71 (713): e912-e920. DOI: 

Cooper, M., Avery, L., Scott, J., Ashley, K., Jordan, C., Errington, L., & Flynn, D. (2022). Effectiveness and active ingredients of social prescribing interventions targeting mental health: a systematic review. BMJ open, 12(7), e060214. 

Cunningham, K. B., Rogowsky, R. H., Carstairs, S. A., Sullivan, F., & Ozakinci, G. (2022). Social prescribing and behaviour change: proposal of a new behaviour change technique concerning the ‘connection’ step. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, 10(1), 121-123. 

Dayson, C., Downey,J., Polley, M., Sabey, A. and Golder, E. (2022) Social Prescribing and Physical Activity: Scoping an Agenda for Policy, Practice and Research. 

Drinkwater, C., Wildman J., Moffatt, S. (2019). Social prescribing BMJ 364 :l1285 

Evers, S., Husk, K., Napierala, H., Wendt, L., & Gerhardus, A. (2024). Theories used to develop or evaluate social prescribing in studies: a scoping review. BMC Health Services Research, 24(1), 1-15. 

Fell, G. (2020, January 12) Is there any *actual* evidence for social prescribing yet [Blog post]. Retrieved from 

Frostick, C., & Bertotti, M. (2019). The frontline of social prescribing–How do we ensure Link Workers can work safely and effectively within primary care?. Chronic Illness, 1742395319882068. 

Frostick, C., & Bertotti, M. (2019). Social prescribing in general practice. British Journal of General Practice  69 (688): 538-539. 

Gottlieb, L., Cottrell, E. K., Park, B., Clark, K. D., Gold, R., & Fichtenberg, C. (2018). Advancing social prescribing with implementation science. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 31(3), 315-321.  

Dayson, C. & Bashir, N. (2014). The social and economic impact of the Rotherham Social Prescribing Pilot: Main evaluation report. Sheffield Hallam University: Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR).   

Fixsen, A., Seers, H., Polley, M. et al. (2020) Applying critical systems thinking to social prescribing: a relational model of stakeholder “buy-in”. BMC Health Serv Res 20, 580   

Haslam, C., Jetten, J., Cruwys, T., Dingle, G., & Haslam, S. A. (2018). The New Psychology of Health. Unlocking the Social Cure, London: Routledge. [publisher]

Husk, K., Elston, J., Gradinger, F., Callaghan, L., & Asthana, S. (2019). Editorial - Social prescribing: where is the evidence?.  with a response by Stevenson, C. et al. (2019). Social prescribing: A practice in need of a theory. 

Models of Social PrescribingImage from Husk, K. et al. (2019). What approaches to social prescribing work, for whom, and in what circumstances? A realist review. Health & social care in the community. 

Husk, K., Blockley, K., Lovell, R., Bethel, A., Lang, I., Byng, R., & Garside, R. (2019). What approaches to social prescribing work, for whom, and in what circumstances? A realist review. Health & social care in the community. 

Holt-Lunstad, J., Robles, T. F., & Sbarra, D. A. (2017). Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. American Psychologist, 72(6), 517. DOI: 10.1037/amp0000103

Kilgarriff-Foster, A., & O'Cathain, A. (2015). Exploring the components and impact of social prescribing. Journal of Public Mental Health, 14(3), 127-134. 

Kellezi, B., Wakefield, J. R., McNamara, N., Stevenson, C., Mair, E., Bowe, M., ... & Halder, M. M. (2019). The social cure of social prescribing: a mixed-methods study on the benefits of social connectedness on quality and effectiveness of care provision. BMJ Open. 9:e033137. 

Kiely, B., Croke, A., O'Shea, M., Boland, F., O'Shea, E., Connolly, D., & Smith, S. M. (2022). Effect of social prescribing link workers on health outcomes and costs for adults in primary care and community settings: a systematic review. BMJ open, 12(10), e062951. 

Kimberlee, R. (2015). What is social prescribing?. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 2(1). 

Malby B, Boyle D, Wildman J, Smith S, Ben Omar S (2019). The Asset Based Health Inquiry. How best to develop social prescribing. Health Systems Innovation Lab. London South Bank University

Mercer SW, Wyke S, Fitzpatrick B, et al . (2017) Evaluation of the Glasgow “Deep End” Links Worker Programme. Glasgow University. 

Moffatt, S., Steer, M., Lawson, S., Penn, L., & O’Brien, N. (2017). Link Worker social prescribing to improve health and well-being for people with long-term conditions: qualitative study of service user perceptions. BMJ Open, 7(7), e015203. 

Moffatt, S., Wildman, J., Pollard, T. M., Penn, L., O’Brien, N., Pearce, M. S., & Wildman, J. M. (2019). Evaluating the impact of a community-based social prescribing intervention on people with type 2 diabetes in North East England: mixed-methods study protocol. BMJ Open, 9(1), bmjopen-2018. 

Morse, D.F., Sandhu, S., Mulligan, K, et al (2022) Global developments in social prescribing. BMJ Global Health 7:e008524. 

Munford, L. A., Sidaway, M., Blakemore, A., Sutton, M., & Bower, P. (2017). Associations of participation in community assets with health-related quality of life and healthcare usage: a cross-sectional study of older people in the community. BMJ Open, 7(2), e012374. 

Pescheny, J. V., Pappas, Y., & Randhawa, G. (2018). Facilitators and barriers of implementing and delivering social prescribing services: a systematic review. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 86. 

Pescheny, J., Randhawa, G., & Pappas, Y. (2018). Patient uptake and adherence to social prescribing: a qualitative study. BJGP open, 2(3), bjgpopen18X101598.  

Pescheny, J. V., Randhawa, G., & Pappas, Y. (2019). The impact of social prescribing services on service users: a systematic review of the evidence. European Journal of Public Health. ckz078, 

Polley, M., Chatterjee, H., & Clayton, G. (2017). Social prescribing: community-based referral in public health. Perspectives in Public Health, 138(1), 18-19. [www]

Polley M. & Sabey A. (2022). An evidence review of social prescribing and physical activity. NASP. 

Sani, F., Madhok, V., Norbury, M., Dugard, P., & Wakefield, J. R. (2015). Greater number of group identifications is associated with healthier behaviour: Evidence from a Scottish community sample. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20(3), 466-481. 

Skivington, K., Smith, M., Chng, N. R., Mackenzie, M., Wyke, S., & Mercer, S. W. (2018). Delivering a primary care-based social prescribing initiative: a qualitative study of the benefits and challenges. Br J Gen Pract, 68(672), e487-e494.  

Social Prescribing Network (2016). Report of the annual social prescribing network conference. London: University of Westminster. [download]

South, J., Higgins, T. J., Woodall, J., & White, S. M. (2008). Can social prescribing provide the missing link?. Primary Health Care Research & Development, 9(4), 310-318. 

Thomson, L., Camic, P. M., & Chatterjee, H. (2015). Social prescribing: a review of community referral schemes. 

Tierney, S., Wong, G., & Mahtani, K. R. (2019). Current understanding and implementation of ‘care navigation’across England: a cross-sectional study of NHS clinical commissioning groups. British Journal of General Practice, 69(687), e675-e681.   

Wakefield, J. R. H., Kellezi, B., Stevenson, C., McNamara, N., Bowe, M., Wilson, I., ... & Mair, E. (2020). Social Prescribing as ‘Social Cure’: A longitudinal study of the health benefits of social connectedness within a Social Prescribing pathway. Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105320944991. 

Wildman, J. M., Moffatt, S., Steer, M., Laing, K., Penn, L., & O’Brien, N. (2019). Service-users’ perspectives of link worker social prescribing: a qualitative follow-up study. BMC public health, 19(1), 98. 

Wildman, J. M., Moffatt, S., Penn, L., O'Brien, N., Steer, M., & Hill, C. (2018). Link workers’ perspectives on factors enabling and preventing client engagement with social prescribing. Health & social care in the community. 

Whitelaw, S., Thirlwall, C., Morrison, A., Osborne, J., Tattum, L., & Walker, S. (2017). Developing and implementing a social prescribing initiative in primary care: insights into the possibility of normalisation and sustainability from a UK case study. Primary health care research & development, 18(2), 112-121. 

Wood, E., Ohlsen, S., Fenton, S. J., Connell, J., & Weich, S. (2021). Social prescribing for people with complex needs: a realist evaluation. BMC Family Practice, 22(1), 1-12. 

Woodall, J. R., Trigwell, J., Bunyan, A., Raine, G., Eaton, V., Davis, J., ... & Wilkinson, S. (2018). Understanding outcomes and processes of a social prescribing service: a mixed method analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(604). 

Woodall, J., Trigwell, J., Bunyan, A. M., Raine, G., Eaton, V., Davis, J., ... & Wilkinson, S. (2018). Understanding the effectiveness and mechanisms of a social prescribing service: a mixed method analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 604.

Further Resources

Follow on twitter

National Association of Link Workers - @ConnectLinkOrg 

Simon Chapman - Deputy Director, Personalised Care @NHSEngland  - @SimonSimply 

Kerryn Husk - @kerrynhusk

Conferences & CPD

The International Social Prescribing Network Conference - 

Social Prescribing - Learning For Link workers