Understanding social prescribing in Wales

September 2021

Researchers at the Wales School for Social Care Prescribing, PRIME Centre Wales, Data Cymru and Public Health Wales have published findings of a baseline study to generate an understanding of understanding of social prescribing activity in Wales.

Social prescribing in Wales is defined as ‘connecting citizens to community support to better manage their health and well-being’ (Rees et al, 2019). It is a person-centred approach to empowering an individual to better manage their health and wellbeing through a number of activities (SCIE, 2020). There are multiple models of social prescribing working in Wales with practitioner roles based in places such as local authorities, third sector, housing, higher education, and primary care; and social prescribing activities most commonly based within third sector and community spaces.

The aim of this work was to understand the landscape of social prescribing activity across Wales, and where possible, to quantify and describe its functions.

The synthesised findings underpin four key messages:

  1. Variation in provision of social prescribing across Wales provides both opportunities and challenges.
  2. Social prescribing is a ‘growth’ activity, and expectations of it are high 
  3. Technology is key to the future of social prescribing, especially as the pandemic persists 
  4. Resources, as always, are fundamental to sustaining the social prescribing pathway 

The following eight recommendations are made:

  1. The planned national framework should be embedded across Wales to provide a national vision for social prescribing whilst promoting a standard model, terminology, and structures that support it. This would raise professional and public awareness and reduce confusion.
  2. Local/regional organisational structures and partnerships should consider the role of a social prescribing champion to drive regional social prescribing strategy and coordinate communication throughout the pathway.
  3. A whole system approach to developing and delivering the social prescribing pathway which is informed by intelligent commissioning should be adopted both locally and nationally.
  4. To review the role and scope of the social prescriber to understand what should or should not be included within it and its points of referral onto other services such as mental health and social work teams as appropriate.
  5. To provide a professional infrastructure for the social prescriber which includes for example a suite of job descriptions, salary guide, skills and competency framework, supervision requirements, appropriate and recognised training, and education opportunities.
  6. To evaluate the usability of national single digital directories for Wales (such as DEWIS and InfoEngine); and digital platforms used across the pathway (e.g., Elemental) to manage referrals, collect national core service activity, individual outcome measures. This will ensure that the specific needs of the social prescribing services are being addressed.
  7. To reconsider the funding model used for social prescribing to promote a sustainable pathway for the future.
  8. To repeat this research study in the next 5 - 10 years to further understand the progress made in establishing and developing social prescribing services across Wales. In addition to triangulating the findings of this report with a ‘deep dive’ investigation at one University Health Board geographical area and in collaboration with Shared Services Partnership and the Wales National Workforce Reporting System (WNWRS).

Read the report in full: