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Social prescribing is a broad term that recognises that well-being is influenced by social, economic and/or environmental circumstances. It seeks to address people’s needs holistically, empowering them to take more control of their health. It focuses on non-medical needs affecting health or well-being by linking people to local, community groups or organisations to help with a spectrum of problems including social isolation, housing issues or unemployment.

Professor Kamal Mahtani and Dr Stephanie Tierney lead the social prescribing research in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford. Dr Tierney has completed a cross-sectional analysis of all CCGs across England on how the care navigator/link worker role is being implemented. Her results will shortly appear in the British Journal of General Practice. In this next phase, the team are completing an SPCR Evidence Synthesis Working Group funded realist review on the care navigator/link worker role, which will be ready for publication later this year. Early results from the review show the importance of “buy-in” and connection with and around the link worker role.

As an extension to their work on social prescribing, the team, in collaboration with their colleagues in the Gardens Libraries and Museums division,  have levered funding from the University of Oxford Knowledge Exchange programme to host two engagement events (one with members of the public and one with policymakers) in July 2019 on how community-based cultural spaces (e.g. gardens, libraries etc) can be used as 'assets' for social prescribing. Following this, their aim is to bid for larger funds for the next phase of our research.

Dr Stephanie Tierney commented “This is an exciting and fast-moving field relevant to current policy. The area of social prescribing needs a stronger evidence base to explore how this intervention can support patients and GP workload. There remains a number of unknowns that we are planning to address in current and future research.” 

Professor Mahtani added “The key here is for us to engage with the people most likely to use the outputs from our research. This is one of the reasons why we have invested in building relationships and why we are hosting these engagement events”.


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