Dear Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,
Urgent Plea for Regulation of Social Prescribing Link Workers
I am writing urgently on behalf of our members to implore the government to initiate the regulation of social prescribing link workers (SPLWs). The invaluable contributions of SPLWs to patients and communities are evident, yet the absence of proper regulation poses significant risks to this transformative practice.
In 2021, NHS England conducted a consultation on establishing a professional register for SPLWs, health and wellbeing coaches, and care coordinators. In response, our members, overwhelmingly supported the regulation, with 70% emphasising the consequential benefits and risks involved. Despite our proactive engagement, there has been a lack of information regarding the progress of this initiative from NHS England. An enquiry was formally submitted to the NHS England Chief Workforce, Training, and Education Officer on January 11, 2024, and we eagerly await a comprehensive response.
A recent GP Online article published on January 11 highlighted the challenges arising from the absence of SPLW regulation, underscoring the urgency of addressing this critical matter. The dynamic nature of SPLW roles and expanded responsibilities since 2021 necessitates immediate regulatory attention. This complexity introduces potential risks that demand a structured framework for oversight. Moreover, the anticipated increase in recruitment, aligned with the NHS Long Term Workforce plan, underscores the urgency of regulatory action. Notably, I raised the issue of regulation with Minister Helen Whatley during a social prescribing round table in October 2023.
Considering the compelling evidence and the pressing need to ensure the integrity, safety, and sustainability of social prescribing practices (high turnover in some areas is a result of the absence of regulation, which should enable adequate support and equal opportunities), we urgently appeal to the government to take decisive steps towards the regulation of SPLWs. The time to act is now.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this critical matter, and we anticipate a positive response that will safeguard the future of the social prescribing model.
Christiana Melam MBE