2020 was a year of challenge and change for social prescribing across the UK and the world. We had to adapt to changing ways of working, reduced services and increased challenges for many of our clients.

The Ways to Wellness social prescribing service, which supports thousands of people in Newcastle, has been no exception.

We wanted to understand our link workers’ experiences of supporting people during the pandemic, their insights about the impact and consequences for their clients and their views about how we might continue to support clients in the future.

In September 2020 we asked them to complete a short survey about their perceptions and experiences of the impact of the pandemic on their patients.

A full report of our findings can be found on out website, here.

We unsurprisingly found that the impact on our clients has been overwhelmingly negative. Our link workers thought that significant negative impacts for many people included: social isolation, emotional and psychological distress, reduction in physical activity, and limited access to support/social groups.

The responses also suggested significant pressure on services, which has impacted our ability to signpost clients. Link workers reported many services being limited or unavailable since lockdown in March. The success of social prescribing relies heavily on a thriving voluntary sector, so understanding the impact of the pandemic on the voluntary sector will be important.

For the link workers themselves this has also been a challenging time. But we also heard about the positive impact that they could have for Ways to Wellness’ clients. For example, one link worker said:

“I believe that our service is needed more than ever as we are seeing an increase in health conditions or existing conditions becoming unstable in the lockdown.”

So, while this has been an extremely challenging time for Ways to Wellness’ link workers and our clients, it also demonstrates the enormous added value that can be brought by social prescribing schemes to those most in need of help.

The full report can be found on our website, here.