What is Social Prescribing?

Social prescribing is the use of non-medical interventions to achieve sustained healthy behaviour change and improved self-care. Social prescribing supplements the support a patient gets from their healthcare professional.

Healthcare professionals refer patients to a link worker to provide them with a face-to-face conversation during which they can learn about the possibilities and design their own personalised solutions – i.e. ‘co-produce’ their ‘social prescription’. Social prescribing aims to empower people with social, emotional or practical needs to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using and participating in services provided by the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

For more information about Ways to Wellness’ experience of delivering social prescribing, this recent report includes more information about our social prescribing service for people with long term conditions.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for support, patients must:

  • Be on the P4 waiting list for hip or knee replacement surgery, or back surgery. Patients from ethnic minorities and socially deprived areas will be targeted first
  • Be taking pain medication (e.g. opioids, gabapentinoids) for six months or longer, and not currently receiving support from the acute or chronic pain service
  • Have a minimum of 12 weeks until surgery is due to take place
  • Be resident in the geographical area of the project. The project covers the area of the Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead and Northumbria NHS Foundation Trusts.

What support does the patient get?

Support will be provided from at least 12 weeks before surgery to 12 weeks after, providing continuous non-clinical support from waiting list to recovery. Support will be provided by a link worker, based on the social prescribing model of utilising community resources and supporting improved wellbeing through a ‘what matters to you’ approach. Link workers will be based in the community and provide support to patients in the community.

Data analysis will identify patients that are eligible to participate in the pilot. The patients will be contacted and asked if they wish to participate. Those wishing to take part will then be allocated a link worker, who will set up an initial consultation.

There will be three phases of support for our clients:

A pre-operative intensive phase will last approximately 12 weeks. The link worker will do an initial assessment, which will provide baseline data and start the conversation about the client’s goals. They will then support their client to set out goals and consider ways to achieve them. Our approach will focus on non-clinical issues affecting the client’s wellbeing, e.g. diet, exercise, other help to prepare for surgery.

The link worker will provide regular support to the client, as appropriate. This might include support to access suitable services, attending groups/sessions with them to help them settle in, signposting appropriate support and services etc.

Following this intensive phase, the client will be moved to a ‘waiting well’ phase. They will be contacted on a regular basis to ensure they remain engaged. As they are moved to this phase we will assess the client's progress.

During a post-operative phase of approximately 12 weeks, the link worker will continue to provide support. This will: provide consistency for the patient throughout their journey; promote understanding of and engagement with postoperative rehabilitation; provide emotional support and help to prepare for life post-operation; and help to maintain any behaviour change that was achieved prior to the operation. Before discharge the client will be asked to complete an assessment to examine progress from baseline.

Click here for what we aim to achieve or here for how we are evaluating our impact.

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This service has been a very great help as it has resolved a lot of issues that worried me.