Social Prescribing in Primary Care

Background on Social PrescribingIt is well established that 80-90% of health outcomes are linked to social determinants of health. These include health-related behaviours, socioeconomic and environmental factors.

Social prescribing aims to address social determinants of health. NHS England describes social prescribing as “a way for local agencies to refer people to a link worker. Link workers give people time, focusing on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. They connect people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.” Social prescriptions are varied and include activities focused on health, education, skills development, sports and leisure/art activities. If utilised well, they can help to deliver several benefits to individuals and health and care systems including: giving a route for health and care systems to address social determinants of health; promoting self-care; building stronger communities; reducing healthcare service utilisation including GP appointments, secondary care referrals and accident and emergency attendances.

The NHS Long Term Plan includes a commitment to make personalised care business as usual across the health and care system. In January 2019, as part of its delivery plan Universal Personalised Care, NHS England announced a major expansion of social prescribing, as one of six components of the comprehensive model of personalised care.

Social Prescribing Observatory

To support the rollout of social prescribing, RCGP and University of Oxford have created a Social Prescribing Observatory, that will be updated weekly. The observatory provides accurate and up to date information about social prescribing.


Healthcare professionals can currently see a breakdown of social prescribing activity based on several attributes including region, age, IMD, ethnicity, gender and COVID-19 status.  Hovering over the line graphs with your mouse will provide information on the number of individuals with the specific attribute in the RCGP RSC, the number of total events as well as the rate per 10,000 (see figure below).


Feature updates

New features will be added to the Observatory on a regular basis to support the NHS in using social prescribing to improve patient and population outcomes while optimising resource utilisation.  If you have any questions or have ideas about other features that could be added to the Observatory to make it more helpful, please feel free to send your feedback.


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