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Exploring the role of volunteering in community settings to promote well-being and to tackle ill-health.


Social prescribing refers to the use of ‘community assets’ (e.g. local organisations, charities, events, groups) to address the non-medical challenges (e.g. isolation, housing problems) that can affect how people feel physically and psychologically. Volunteering can form part of social prescribing activities, offering outlets and opportunities to help with the complex issues that patients can experience. Volunteering itself can be a social prescribing activity, connecting people to their community and bringing rewards to volunteers in terms of building a sense of self-worth, skills and confidence. However, little research has explored the use of volunteering to help patients in primary care with non-medical challenges as part of social prescribing.


Our Projects

We have been funded by the School for Primary Care Research to explore and understand the role of volunteering in community settings to promote well-being and to tackle ill-health. It will involve three related studies:


  • A thematic synthesis, exploring what existing qualitative research tells us about volunteering and health/well-being.
  • Qualitative interviews with approximately 20 volunteers at museums in Oxford, to explore how far what they tell us supports the framework we develop from the qualitative synthesis, or whether this needs to be modified.
  • An end of project workshop attended by approximately 30 key stakeholders (volunteers, members of the public, voluntary organisations, social prescribing colleagues, general practitioners, policy makers). They will help us to a) contextualise our findings and ensure they are disseminated in an accessible and expedient manner, and b) prioritise areas for future research on the topic of volunteering and its role in social prescribing as part of primary care.

This research is funded by the SPCR (Project ref: 483).

Our team