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Social Prescribing

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What is Social Prescribing?

Social prescribing, which is also referred to as ‘Community Referral’ is a way of enabling GPs and other health and care professionals to connect patients to community activities, networks and non-clinical services that can help to meet their social, emotional or practical needs; with the help of a ‘link worker’.  Social prescribing recognises that people’s health is determined by a range of social, environmental and economic factors.  Social prescribing can include many things, such as help with:

  • managing debt
  • finding a job or housing
  • befriending and lunch clubs
  • leisure activities, getting outdoors and exercising
  • gardening/animal care
  • crafts groups
  • anything else available through local charities, organisations, community or voluntary groups.

Patients are referred to a ‘link worker’ based in the GP practice.  The link worker will then arrange a face to face meeting with the patient in order to better understand their needs, discuss relevant possibilities and support them in the early stages of their engagement with the local service. The desire is to get the best outcome for each patient through a personally tailored ‘social prescription’.   Benefits for patients can include better quality of life, improved mental health and wellbeing and lower levels of depression and anxiety.

It is estimated that about a fifth (20%) of visits to GP’s are for a social problem rather than a medical one at a cost of nearly £400 million (“A Very General Practice” CAB 2015).  By connecting people with local community services and activities social prescribing can help to improve people’s health and wellbeing as well as increasing their independence and making the most of our community assets.

Developing Social Prescribing for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire

The local approach to social prescribing for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire has been developed in partnership and aims to build on community knowledge, local assets and existing programmes such as care navigation and the VCS hub funded by the CCG (see link below for more information) which has created a valuable starting point, receiving increasing referrals from a number of GP practices across the area. 

What does Social Prescribing offer?

  • Offers patients something more than a medical intervention 
  • Reduces pressures of stretched services, such as GPs and Hospital services 
  • Patients benefit from 'taking control' as they find their own way to stay well, one that suits them and is maintainable for the individual 
  • Lots of support in the community 
  • Opportunity to improve health and wellbeing 
  • Reduce lonliness and chronic health conditions 
  • Social acceptance of mental health and isolation 
  • potential to reduce financial burden on NHS- particularly primary care 
  • View a person, as a person rather than a condition or disability 

Social Prescribing in Northern Staffordshire – VCS Hub:

Social Prescribing – Making it Happen – Workshop Event held on Monday 12th Feb 2018

In October 2017 a group of partners* came together and started a conversation about social prescribing.  The group wanted to take a collaborative and broad partnership approach to developing social prescribing across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire and therefore organised a workshop event to involve others.

Social prescribing enables people to be referred to a range of non-medical community services to help meet their social, emotional and practical needs.

It is estimated that about a fifth (20%) of visits to GP’s are for a social problem rather than a medical one at a cost of nearly £400 million (“A Very General Practice” CAB 2015).

By connecting people with local community services and activities we can help to improve people’s health and wellbeing as well as increasing their independence and making the most of our community assets.  Social prescribing therefore has the potential to reduce pressure on health and social care services and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of a wide population (LGA Social Prescribing Guidance 2016).

The workshop event was over-subscribed with over 100 people attending on the day from a wide range of organisations and community groups.

The aims of the event were:

  • To develop a common understanding about what social prescribing is and what it can do for us
  • To share knowledge and experience to help co-design a local social prescribing model for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire
  • To identify how we can work together to make this happen
  • To clarify commitment and next steps.

The event began by demonstrating the value and role of social prescribing from a national, primary care and community perspective with presentations from:

  • Jo Robbins Chair of the Regional Social Prescribing Network
  • Dr Paul Roberts a local GP
  • Amelia Bilson, Middleport Matters

  document Presentation slides available here  (29.97 MB)

The presentations were followed by a number of workshop activities to help inform the further development of social prescribing locally.

The 4 activities asked participants:

  1. What principles and values should underpin our social prescribing approach?
  2. What would success look like?
  3. What should social prescribing look like in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire?
  4. What do we need to make this happen?

The full list of responses captured for each activity can also be seen below:

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If you feel that your comments have not been captured or you were not able to attend on the day and would like to add some further thoughts please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will be happy to add them to the event feedback.

*The partners involved in organising this event are listed below:

  • North Staffordshire Alliance Board
  • North Staffordshire GP Federation
  • CCG
  • PPG
  • VAST
  • Age Uk
  • Staffordshire Housing Association
  • North Staffs Combined Healthcare Trust
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council - Public Health and Adult Social Care
  • Co-operative Working

What has happened since the event?

Following the event the group has continued to meet to:

  • Review the feedback from the event to inform and guide next steps
  • Review best practice and evidence from social prescribing projects elsewhere
  • Start to develop an outline model based on local intelligence, best practice and evidence. A list of some further resources on social prescribing can be found further down.
  • Identify a number of suitable sites to be early adopters of the model using local insight from both GP’s and local communities.
  • Start to look at how we can build evaluation into the programme from the start to ensure that we are capturing success
  • Build a business case to secure support and funding for this approach.

What is happening now?

Through the North Staffordshire Social Prescribing Steering Group an agreed model has been developed and funding secured from the CCG to implement social prescribing in 6 – 8 areas across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire during year 1.  These areas include:

  • Meir, Longton, Middleport, Burslem/Cobridge, Bentilee and Shelton in Stoke-on-Trent
  • Chesterton/Silverdale in Newcastle and Leek/Werrington in Staffordshire Moorlands.

The proposed model will see ‘link support workers’ available in each GP practice to support patients to access the support that they need.

How you can help?

We want to continue to involve you in developing this work and will continue to share updates on progress and further opportunities for you to be involved on this website.

If you would like to be involved in any particular are of this work please don’t hesitate to contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you can also request to be included on our email distribution list to receive further information.


Further reading can be found below:

pdf York Evidence briefing social prescribing (132 KB)

pdf Unleashing Healthy Communities (333 KB)

pdf Tower Hamlets Social Prescribing Evaluation FINAL FULL REPORT 03 2018 (964 KB)

pdf Social prescribing for mental health (385 KB)

pdf Social economic impact rotherham (1.09 MB)

pdf Social Prescribing Resources and Links for webpagedocx (266 KB)

pdf Social Prescribing Report Bristol (628 KB)

pdf Social Prescribing Report Ageuk (791 KB)

pdf Social Prescribing Presentation (17.15 MB)

pdf Social prescribing evaluation Dundee (1.41 MB)

pdf Social Prescribing at a glance (240 KB)

pdf Rotherham social prescribing summary (496 KB)

pdf Reducing the Pressure in General Practice Dec 2015 (495 KB)

pdf POV Final Report March 2014 (633 KB)

pdf More than medicine (502 KB)

pdf Making sense of social prescribing 2017 (934 KB)

pdf LGA Social Prescribing guidance May 2016 (183 KB)

pdf Gloucester Social Prescribing evaluation (845 KB)

pdf Eval doncaster social prescribing service (656 KB)

pdf Connect Well social prescribing mid essex (568 KB)