Care navigation for social prescribing
Care navigators, sometimes known as link workers, support patients to engage in social prescribing activities. Their role reflects the reality that before patients access local services/activities, they may need to be informed about them, motivated to consider them as an alternative to medical care, or helped with barriers to attending them.
Care navigation takes several forms; all involve directing patients to groups, events or organisations, often in the voluntary/community sector, to help with problems that do not have a medical basis (e.g. housing issues, loneliness or low confidence). Care navigation can be delivered by dedicated staff employed to spend time with patients; they will assess a person's needs and develop a plan with them to improve their health and well-being. Alternatively, it can be part of the job of an existing member of staff within a surgery (e.g. receptionists, practice manager); these individuals will signpost patients to available local groups, organisations or services that may help with their particular problem.
We are conducting a programme of work on the topic of care navigation. This includes a review of the current evidence base to support the intervention and a better understanding of how this role is being operationalised in healthcare settings.
Our aims include answering the following:
- In what context is care navigation being used in community settings?
- Which types of patients are likely to benefit from this service?
- What outcomes are associated with care navigation?
We are working closely with service users and providers to help shape our work. Our outputs will be useful for those planning or providing care navigation services by generating information on how best to design, deliver or optimise this service to bring about desired outcomes.