Ways to Wellness is committed to working with delivery partners and academics to fully understand the impact of our work.

As part of this, Durham and Newcastle Universities have been conducting a study evaluating the impact of the Ways to Wellness service, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Research Programme.

The research team undertook interviews with Ways to Wellness clients and service providers between May and September 2020. This is believed to be the first substantial qualitative study exploring social prescribing during the Covid-19 pandemic from both the client and service provider perspective.

The research found that:

  • Ways to Wellness adapted quickly to remote support, aiming to serve existing clients and other vulnerable groups
  • The use of telephone support meant that we were able to work with some existing clients more easily in the first months of remote delivery. In some cases we were able to engage clients who had previously not attended appointments at their GP surgeries.
  • However, there were also some negative impacts of remote support. Link workers found it harder to build rapport with clients and engage clients with the aims of the intervention. It was also harder to provide a service to digitally excluded people.

“If you’re not digitally connected there’s an obvious gap for a lot of our clients”

Ways to Wellness Link Worker

  • There were challenges with maintaining consistent link worker support, due to limited link worker capacity. Consistent support was highly valued by clients and helped them to manage their conditions and mental wellbeing.
  • Clients were adversely affected by limited access to other services, many of which were disrupted.

“Things aren’t open, so things that I might like to signpost people to, I can’t”

Ways to Wellness Link Worker

  • Clients living in less affluent circumstances and/or with worse health were more likely to experience negative impacts on their long-term condition. Some found their health and progress with social prescribing was ‘on hold’ or ‘going backwards’, which sometimes negatively affected their health.

The full research paper can be downloaded here: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-022-07616-z