Scotland: Social Prescribing Link Workers Conference-COVID 19 Experiences, Impact, Issues, and Best Practices

Scotland: Social Prescribing Link Workers Conference COVID 19 Experiences, Impact, Issues and Best Practices

The National Association of Link Workers (NALW) held a virtual conference for Scotland Link Workers on the 3rd of December 2020, this was one of 12 annual UK Social Prescribing Link Worker (SPLW) roadshows held virtually.

The role of social prescribing link workers as key players in the fight against Covid 19 has not only raised the profile of their role but identified that they offer a crucial service that enables health care services to provide a holistic service to the local population.

The conference held discussions relating to embedding social prescribing, strengthening it, and the impact of the work done by social prescribing link workers during the pandemic.

The conference had link workers and guest speakers who discussed issues facing SPLW, their working experiences, professional practice, best practices and the challenges that need to be addressed.

Speakers included:

  • Christiana Melam – Chief Executive, National Association of Link Workers
  • Deborah Clark – National Champion – Scotland
  • Sean Macfarlane – National Champion – Scotland & winner Social Prescribing Link Worker of the Year Award 2020
  • Patricia Compston – Social Prescribing Link Worker, CVS Inverclyde
  • Claire Gardiner – Edinburgh CLW Network
  • Rebecca Goodman – Community Link Worker Edinburgh
  • Gail Paterson – Community Links Practitioner, Alliance Scotland
  • Alio Ajmone – Asylum Seekers Specialist, Glasgow Community Links
  • Stacey McColm – Link Worker, Yiporld
  • Hannah Edwards – Link Worker, Cyrenians & Finalist for Social Prescribing Link Worker of the Year Award 2020
  • Mike Wright – Cyrenians
  • John MacDonald – mPower SCVO
  • Chris Grant – Ability Net
  • Stephen McCabe – Eco-therapist

Key Points:

  • As SPLWs it is important to build and develop resilience and wellbeing, this ensures SPLW can then offer holistic person-centred care.
  • Sean MacFarlane was awarded Social Prescribing Link Worker of the year, having worked in partnership with other community link workers to develop a local pathway.
  • Working through a pandemic has been challenging for SPLW but they have risen to the challenge and created evidence that social prescribing is essential.
  • SPLWs working with GP practices have established good links with their GP practices, building their skill sets and knowledge base.
  • It is anticipated that referrals to SPLW are likely to increase in 2021 as the country moves away from lockdown.
  • Working practices adopted during the pandemic are likely to continue including online consultations, walk and talk sessions, social platform usage, activity and pamper packages, and blended working.
  • After a significant drop in consultations in March 2020 these have now increased.
  • Specialist link workers offer support to some of the most vulnerable people in the society such as asylum seekers and the homeless
  • Digital inclusion is a key issue especially with hard-to-reach demographics such as the elderly and those living rurally.
  • Connecting Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative that was started in May 2020 to support everyone in Scotland get online.
  • Eco Therapy is just about paying attention-research shows that it is good for your mind when you pay attention to nature and the things outside.

Specialist link workers offer support to some of the most vulnerable people in the society such as asylum seekers and the homeless.

SPLW have a role to play in digital inclusion:

  • Building and developing relationships with other services
  • Working collaboratively and innovatively
  • Adapting working patterns
  • Working towards a return to practice
  • Reducing health inequalities through digital inclusion

Some challenges faced by SPLW:

  • the closure of key services in the community which are closed due to Covid, or services running at full capacity.
  • not having face to face support meetings.
  • unable to provide support such as form filling, and transport.
  • dealing with increasing anxiety levels from patients.
  • loss of community support groups.
  • building and maintaining links with patients.
  • getting people to engage online.


  • Increase the number of social prescribing link workers in Scotland to ensure equal access to support.
  • Widen support networks and collaborative working, bring new organisations into the NALW network.
  • Look at the demographics within surgeries and in other areas and ensure equal access to SPLW
  • Keep working on digital inclusion and look to spearhead projects to facilitate the vulnerable to access healthcare via technology.
  • Continue to identify barriers to accessing care and support.
  • Keep working on cultural competency and flexibility.
  • Build collaborative working relationships with human rights groups such as the Asylum Bridging Team, and homeless organisations.
  • Continue to build CPD – this can be done via the NALW.
  • Spread the message about the work done by SPLW and the beneficial impact on health outcomes.

Increase the number of social prescribing link workers in Scotland to ensure equal access to support.

Join us on 27th May 2021 for our annual UK virtual roadshow event in Scotland

Have comments? Share your thoughts and connect with us on Twitter @nalwscotland @nalwuk

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How Social Prescribing Link Workers are reducing social inequalities in the response to Covid-19

The NALW showcases the role of SPLW and its importance in reducing social inequality, facilitating access to care, and reducing pressure on NHS services. SPLWs are essential for any COVID-19 recovery plan, particularly as Covid has massively affected marginalised communities. If social inequalities are to be redressed then more SPLWs need to be trained, recruited, and utilised in the fight against inequality. SPLWs provide social, emotional, and practical solutions which ensure that social inequality is minimised.