Social prescribing, or ‘community referral’, allows GPs and other primary care providers to connect people to local activities that could improve their health and wellbeing.
The aim of social prescribing is to help people improve their health through non-medical means. It can involve activities like volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, or fitness classes.
Most social prescribing connects patients to a link worker or navigator, who works with them to find local activities. It can help people with social, emotional or practical needs. Many schemes are focused on improving mental health and physical wellbeing.
Those who can benefit 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.
Does social prescribing work?
Studies suggest a variety of positive health and well-being outcomes, such as quality of life and emotional wellbeing, mental and general wellbeing, and levels of depression and anxiety.
A study into a social prescribing project in Bristol found improvements in anxiety levels, and in feelings about general health and quality of life. Such schemes report high levels of satisfaction from participants, primary care professionals and commissioners.