Hello everyone

I hope you are staying well?  This is our last newsletter before we take a break over August, and it has me reflecting on the year that has passed.   

Social Prescribing has been recognised as a great way of supporting non-medical needs that people have.  We are now seeing larger funding calls for research, more national policies and conversations taken place as well as more TV programmes featuring social prescribing.  This is great, if it means health inequalities and wider determinants of health are being addressed for those people who need the support. 

But, this is not without issue is it?  Still there remains the issue of recognition and equity for the VCSE sector in their contribution, their capacity, how they are valued and resourced.    There still remains the need for more training for link workers and there still remains the need to understand how to collect routine data monitoring of services so we can have a much better overview of the real impact of social prescribing.    I know more is being done about link worker training and data monitoring and the SPN has been able to sit on advisory groups to support this moving forwards.

I am, however, still concerned that despite 6 years of speaking to all sorts of people on social prescribing,  the VCSE sector is still not being treated equitably in the majority of schemes.  We have seen so many reports produced, discussions take place, acknowledgements given.  But this is not good enough.    This is the sector that provides the majority of the social prescriptions that help change people's lives for the better.   The worst case scenario is that this sector disengages with the social prescribing architecture completely and the whole thing falls over.   

I am now wondering what it is actually going to take to achieve equitable funding for the VCSE sector - I hope we don't resort to waiting until it goes completely pair-shaped before real action happens... If you have an example of where the arrangements and commissioning is supporting and valuing the VCSE sector as an equal partner, please do let us know at the SPN.  The more examples of good practice we can share, the more we can support uptake of this good practice - I know there are some of you out there who have made this happen!   

I hope you manage to get some relaxation at some point over the summer and thank you for all your hard work.

Keep social prescribing,


Co-Chair, Social Prescribing Network


This month we take a look at a few more sessions from the 4th International Social Prescribing Network Conference last March.   We have a session on the future of social prescribing - community matters.  We also feature the research being conducted on community as social prescribing.  Finally you can access the session on social prescribing in a digital world.  Just click on the images below.
1-2pm 4th March 2021: Community matters - what does the future of social prescribing look like and what is needed to get there. Co-Chaired by Jane Hartley and Sian Brand.
March 5th 11-12pm, Social Prescribing in a digital world. Co-Chairs Muir Grey and David Robinson
2-3pm, 4th March 2021 - Community and Social Prescribing. Chaired by Marcello Bertotti and Helen Seers

The second National Food strategy was published on Thursday 15th July. The Social Prescribing Network and the College of Medicine was pleased to be asked to contribute towards the strategy and recommendation 7 is  to enable a pilot of a Community Eatwell Programme and fruit and vegetables on prescription.   Our main messages were to understand existing good practice  - and build on it - before rolling out a new scheme, and to ensure the VCSE sector is fully resourced to do this work...we wait to see which recommendations from the report are adopted in the government's white paper going forwards.

Launch of the National Food Strategy

With the publication of the strategy, there was interest in the media to hear from the world of social prescribing.  Dr. Marie Polley was interviewed on Sky News for her views on fruit and veg on prescription, salt and sugar tax. 

Also, Sir Sam Everington from Bromley by Bow Centre featured on ITV news explaining why a new approach to obesity is needed.

It was also great to see Cathy Connolly, CEO Care Merseyside, on BBC news explaining how social prescribing is already giving more people access to fruit and vegetables via foodbanks. 


Health Services Executive Social Prescribing Framework launched 
On 15th July the Health Services Executive (HSE) Social Prescribing Framework was launched in Ireland.
It focuses on mainstreaming social prescribing in partnership with community and voluntary organisations.  We are delighted to see the progress made in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland - it represents the efforts of collaborative working over several years.  If you want to find out more of what is happening in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, have a look at this All Ireland Social Prescribing Network newsletter or email them to get in touch

To find out more and read abut the framework please click

This qualitative research draws on insights from the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in Wales to help understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected vulnerability. It specifically uses a capability approach, which relates vulnerability to wellbeing and focuses on what people are able to be and do in their lives.

The research specifically identifies key emergent needs related to the pandemic, including:
• Worsening mental health due to anxiety and loneliness
• Economic insecurity due to strained household finances and job loss
• Digital exclusion
• Loss of face-to-face services and limitations in the statutory response.

The research also highlights the critical role that the VCS has played in addressing emerging vulnerability throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales. Notably, helping to:
• Tackle isolation and loneliness
• Address the consequences of digital exclusion
• Broker access to statutory services and fill in gaps in statutory provision.

Emergent Drivers of Vulnerability to Health Inequity in the context of Covid-19

In addition, it helps to pinpoint assets held by VCS organisations, which enabled them to rapidly and effectively respond to emerging vulnerability during the pandemic.

These were the:
• Knowledge and expertise held by staff and volunteers that enabled rapid decision-making around operational challenges during times of crisis
• Smaller size of VCS organisations and their flatter hierarchies and quick ratification processes which enabled swift innovation
• Holistic focus on a person’s needs

The full report can be accessed here

Mobilising Cultural and Natural Assets to Combat Health Inequalities programme - Funding call 

A funding opportunity to research the value of the mobilising Cultural and Natural Assets to Combat Health Inequalities programme has just been launched.   Applications from community organisations and academic institutions are welcomed - it is expected that bids will be collaborative in nature.

The full economic cost of your study can be up to £180,000.  AHRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.  The study should focus on how to scale up small, local approaches for addressing health inequalities.

To apply you must be a  UK resident and hosted by a research organisation eligible for AHRC funding.

Your project must:
  • relate to health outcomes
  • involve a range of arts and humanities disciplines
  • engage with other academic disciplines
  • include collaborations with partners from outside academia
More information is available here


Grey literature request from a social prescribing researcher

I am writing a systematic review titled: How Social Prescribing works: A systematic review of the qualitative data. If you have any unpublished or grey literature studies that assess how Social Prescribing works using qualitative methods could you, please them to Caitlin Hayton,  Health and Well-being Advisor at Ridge Green Medical Centre 
Thank you.

Evaluation report: Tandridge District Council Wellbeing Prescription Service 

A new evaluation report from Tandridge District Council has been published exploring the remit and impact of the Wellbeing Prescription Service.  This is a social prescribing service that has been running in Tandridge, Surrey since 2016.  

The evaluation is a great insight into the performance of this social prescribing service, the impact of Covid pandemic, and how well this service performed in these difficult conditions.

The full evaluation can be downloaded from here: LINK

Link workers’ views and experiences of drawing on the cultural sector as part of social prescribing: Findings from a questionnaire

A team of researchers, led by Kamal Mahtani and Stephanie Tierney from the University of Oxford, have been exploring the following question - Cultural institutions as social prescribing venues to improve older people’s well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: What works, for whom, in what circumstances and why?
As part of this work, they asked link workers to complete a questionnaire. Recruitment involved the Social Prescribing Network. Thank you if you completed the questionnaire. We had 148 responses in total.

blog about some of the key issues to arise from the questionnaire responses is available as well as an interim summary of research.  For more details about the questionnaire or the project, please contact Dr Stephanie Tierney 


Love to Move – A dementia friendly exercise programme with cognitive benefits. 
Love to Move is specially designed to get older people moving and functioning better. The programme achieves this by carefully integrating the use of gymnastic foundation skills, cognitive stimulation and social interaction activities, all carried out to music.

Components of Love to Move are based on bilaterally asymmetrical movement patterns as well as co-ordination exercises. These are understood to benefit older people and those living with dementia, Parkinson’s and other forms of cognitive impairment, by enabling the left side and right side of the brain to process information independently, thus improving cognitive function, coordination and the ability to carry out activities of daily living more independently and re-engage with loved ones and others. 

A Social Return on Investment study carried out last year on Love to Move found that every £1 invested in the programme gave social return on investment of £28.24.
The full report can be found here

In what ways can museums, gardens and libraries be good for our health? 
Join us as we launch our latest research findings exploring how social prescribing within cultural spaces can support the health and wellbeing of older people. Listen to older people talk about the importance these cultural spaces have in their lives and hear from cultural sector staff, link workers and researchers on how best we can create places of wellbeing ready for social prescribing.

When? Monday 20 September 2021, 10-11.30am
Where? Zoom 
Link: HERE
The event will be delivered by researchers from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine and practitioners from the Gardens, Libraries and Museums. The findings have been developed by a project team from the University of Oxford, University College London (UCL) and the University of Plymouth, in collaboration with older people, national and international cultural organisations, researchers and social prescribers. Information about the project can be found on Oxford Social Prescribing Research Network’s website.

Do you have something you would like use to share? Tweet us @SocialPrescrib2 or send an email to

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The SPN is part of the College of Medicine which is a registered charity in England and Wales (1145676) and is a registered company (07081291). The College of Medicine’s registered office is c/0 West & Berry, Mocatta House, Trafalgar Place, Brighton, BN1 4DU. 
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