Setting Social Prescribing Link Workers up for success: what you must know

Setting Social Prescribing Link Workers up for success

Social Prescribing Link Workers are integral part of the primary care network team, delivering holistic service to patients and improving the health of the local population. If social prescribing is designed correctly, it will mainstream joined up care across the health and social care system, help reduce the workload for GPs, build patient resilience and enable access to community-based support that can help improve their health and well-being. Social Prescribing Link Worker brings the community into NHS and enables move to a social model of health.

Social prescribing is about adopting a community centred approach to ensure sustainability:

• Seeing the community as part of the solution and not the problem
• Power shifting to the community to do something for itself
• Engaging with the community
• Citizen power rather than tokenistic or consultative engagement.

Social Prescribing Link Workers work with effective pathways and community infrastructures to address local challenges. In order to the get the most out of the social prescribing link workers, they need to be adequately supported as highlighted in our report.

It is important that local key stakeholders, including health and social care professionals, service beneficiaries and referrers understand the need and limitations for the role.

A Social Prescribing Link Worker is a key component of the social prescribing programme. The social prescribing programme encompasses building relationship and trust within and outside the primary care network and coproducing the local model with the community assets.

It is essential to work collaboratively with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE). They provide long term support beyond link worker. A social prescribing link worker is an expert in connecting and linking. Therefore, it is important that there is a VCSE and Volunteer infrastructure for the link worker to connect and link people to.

To be effective in the role, a social prescribing link worker needs to have the:
• Right personality
• Right skills
• Right knowledge
Right practice

The skills and experience required to fulfil the role should be informed by the local challenges addressed through social prescribing and the outcomes desired. In addition to skills, knowledge and personal attributes highlighted in the link worker report and code of practice for high quality social prescribing practice, the social prescribing link worker needs to be approachable, patient and trustworthy.

Here is what a current link worker said

“In order for me to have a good relationship with my client that I am working with they need to feel comfortable talking to me. It makes no difference how skilled I am or how willing the client is to engage, if they don’t feel comfortable working with me, talking to me, or sharing their problems with me then I am not likely to be very successful in keeping them engaged and completing any tasks that have been identified for support”

As a rule of thumb, social prescribing link workers should be able to:

• Use a strength-based approach to increase people’s confidence to take control of their health wellbeing
• Build trust and relationships with people
• Be non-judgemental in listening to what matters to people.
• Actively listen to understand what matters to people from a holistic perspective
• Jointly create action plans and goals with people to meet their needs from a holistic perspective.
• Be knowledgeable about the range of local support available to help with people’s wellbeing issues
• Enable and support access to community-based support
• Facilitate joined up care and social inclusiveness
• Work in partnership with colleagues, other professionals, communities and organisations to promote the well-being and choice of individuals and carers.

To mention some skills required:

• Active listening
• Person centred
• Emotional resilience
• Empathy
• Emotional intelligence
• Advocacy
• Coaching
• Goal setting
• Problem solving

With such a varied role, continuing professional development is necessary. Learning needs should be constantly reviewed and driven by local population need.

Lack of adequate social prescribing link worker support will result in low link worker moral and motivation and effectiveness. Our comprehensive social prescribing link worker support offer is for organisations and primary care networks who wish to reduce costs as a result of high staff turn over and increase successful social prescribing programme (key performance indicators) KPIs. You can contact us to discuss our comprehensive social prescribing link worker support offer or sign up for standard membership here if eligible

Reference materials

Who is a social prescribing link worker

Checklist for setting social prescribing link workers up for success

Code of practice

Getting to know link workers

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There is an ever-increasing evidence base for the success of social prescribing and its impact on reducing social inequality. More and more NHS and statutory bodies are embracing social prescribing and committing resources to it, that is why Christiana believes that those who are passionate about social change should join the social prescribing movement.
Not only will they be able to champion social causes, but they will be able to channel their energy and talent into achieving better health outcomes for others.