Social prescribing connector schemes
Social prescribing connector schemes can support patients to engage in social prescribing activities. Those undertaking this role reflect 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.
The role can take several formats, as our research in this area has shown; 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). 'Link worker' is a title that NHS England uses for connector roles 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, 'care navigators' are often existing members 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 social prescribing connector roles. This has included a review of the existing literature, which aimed to answer the following questions:
- What are the outcomes associated with social prescribing connector schemes in primary care?
- Which are the mechanisms that produce these outcomes?
- Under what conditions (context) are these mechanisms activated?
The following brief video gives a summary of what we set out to do in this review.
Findings from the review have been published in BMC Medicine.
Here is an infographic that summarises our results.
We also have an associated paper that explored how the role was being implemented across England, based on data from a Freedom of Information Request:
We are working closely with service users and providers to help shape our work. Our outputs will be useful for those planning or providing social prescribing connector schemes, by generating information on how best to design, deliver or optimise a service to bring about desired outcomes.