Social Prescribing in the North West

Social prescribing is about harnessing a range of non-clinical resources to develop interventions which can drive a prevention agenda by keeping people well, providing a level of protection, boosting resilience as well as creating new opportunities to support healing by providing different kinds of treatment and management options.

  • Social prescribing at a glance goes further:

    The words people use when discussing social prescribing were very different but they identified a number of common elements which highlighted:

    • the central role of an asset based approach to development
    • a stronger focus on wellness not illness
    • an emphasis on the importance of personal choice and control in achieving and maintaining wellbeing
    • the need to re-imagine future workforce development and training needs with new kinds of bridging roles
    • the value of this approach in terms of the potential to contribute to real transformation of health and care systems through joint endeavour.

Read HEE's e-Learning for Healthcare 'Social Prescribing - Learning for Link Workers' here. This e-learning resource has been developed for social prescribing link workers and includes the core elements and skills required to do the job and deliver social prescribing as part of a PCN multi-disciplinary team.

The NW social prescribing networks

The NHS England North West Social Prescribing Network (NW SP Network) is one of eight regional networks supported by NHS England and the NHS Futures Platform. The North West network is made up of strategic steering group co-hosted with Health Education England (HEE) and Public Health England (PHE) as part of the NW Population Health and Prevention Network (PHPN).

  • The NW SP Network core objective is to be at the forefront in social prescribing and aims to:

    • Maximise the opportunity to impact on regional health inequalities through social prescribing throughout the life course
    • Highlight the value of early intervention with a specific focus on women and children
    • Champion innovation and the VCSE
    • Engage and support health and social care leaders and decision-makers
    • Engage and support Primary Care Networks to establish social prescribing services
    • Develop the evidence base for excellence in social prescribing
    • Build stronger working relationships between acute, primary, community and social care and establish effective, sustainable, local community action
    • Build a strong and resilient link worker workforce which is well understood and well regarded and seen as integral to public health.
Strategic steering group

The NW SP Network’s strategic steering group is an integral part of the PHPN and all partner priorities are closely aligned. Both NHSE and HEE are interested in embedding social prescribing as a core public health function and therefore collaborate to support this joint ambition with PHE.

The PHPN also hosts a working group to deliver an annual conference highlighting the role and value of population health and prevention work. During the current reorganisation of PHE and the establishment of the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP)the joint PHPN steering group will undergo a refresh and establish a new Terms of Reference.

Sub-regional networks

There are also currently two sub regional social prescribing forums in Cheshire and Merseyside and Lancashire and South Cumbria which are jointly facilitated with the NHSE Personalised Care Group. These two sub regional fora are also currently under review and meeting activity has been suspended pending this review until June 2021.

Key NW contacts:

Regional facilitator-strategic lead

Jo Ward is the North West NHSE social prescribing network facilitator. Jo has a strategic remit around promoting sustainability and scalability. Jo also leads a Northern pilot programme to support maternity services engage in innovative asset-based approaches to address health inequalities and boost non-clinical interventions through the adoption of social prescribing principles. The North West footprint includes Cheshire and Merseyside, Lancashire, South Cumbria and the North West Coast but not Greater Manchester.

Regional learning co-ordinator-link worker support and development

The North West social prescribing network has a learning coordinator Anne Marie Morrison whose role it is to support social prescribing link workers. Anne Marie Morrison runs regular peer support sessions, supports link worker networking and information exchanges.

Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester is a devolved region and it therefore has a sub-regional social prescribing lead Sophie Glinka . Sophie works with Charlotte Leonhardsen who has the same role as Anne Marie in terms of link worker development. They work as a team in the region to ensure maximum coverage.

The World Podcast Episode: 'Dancing away the loneliness: In the UK, social prescriptions help fight isolation during the pandemic'

Social prescriptions are relatively common in the United Kingdom, especially to treat loneliness and isolation. When these conditions were exacerbated by the pandemic, the UK already had a strategy in place to help those who need it most, including the elderly.

National and international networks: The social prescribing network

The Social Prescribing Network which has a national and international focus. It consists of health professionals, researchers, academics, social prescribing practitioners, representatives from the community and voluntary sector, commissioners and funders, patients and citizens. They work together to share knowledge and best practice, to support social prescribing at a local and national levels and to inform good quality research and evaluation. Over the past year, the network has worked with many different organisations to launch International Social Prescribing Day on 18 March every year and The Social Prescribing Network Awards.

Special Interest Groups (SIG)

The NW region is also represented on two national social prescribing special interest groups covering nursing, midwifery, AHPs and medicine and children and young people (0-25) SIG. The NW SP Network was the first region to establish a commitment to focusing on women and children to address health inequalities where they start.

Nursing, Midwifery, AHPs and Medics (known as SIGSPN)

Dr Michelle Howarth chairs and hosts the nursing SIGSPN, the first social prescribing SIG. A burgeoning national network spanning academia, policy and practice: originally founded to reflect the role of nursing in driving wellbeing and health creation agendas which quickly expanded to reflect similar concerns in other clinical fields.

Twitter @sigspn

Focus: contemporary health care curricula design is heavily weighted towards a pathogenic model of health. The inequality between pathogenic and salutogenic models has also led to an over-reliance on NHS placements that typically reflect a pathogenic approach. There is a need to promote salutogenic approaches that encourage students to explore what matters to people, rather than what’s the matter with them.

However, the current curricula can limit student awareness of the wider determinants of health and wellbeing, personalised approaches and the role of the community in promoting and supporting healthy citizens. Continuation with the current model may exacerbate professional educational silos and reinforce a patient centric paradigm as opposed to a citizen/person centred approach.

Membership: university sector (HEIs), NHS organisations and providers, the social prescribing network, healthcare students, VCSE and Private and Public sector agencies (PIVO)


  1. Strengthen the nursing/AHP role within implementation of the Comprehensive Model for Personalised Care Model.
  2. Develop a national inter-professional social prescribing framework to support collaborative, cross sector integrated working.
  3. Widen access to healthcare education and enable students to develop the business and innovation skills to support personalised care models to transform future services.
  4. Highlight and enhance how health care professionals can work alongside link workers across community and hospital care sectors to promote personalised care for all.
  5. Help support and develop placement capacity within PCNs and third sector (non-governmental and non-profit-making organizations or associations, including charities, voluntary and community groups, cooperatives-PIVO).
  6. To support the development of a robust evidence base.
  7. Actively collaborate with the National Social Prescribing Academy and Institute for Personalised Care

Sub-groups: PERCIE framework working group- facilitates the development of an inter-professional framework to support students leaning in non-clinical settings supported through an Health Education England tariff.

Useful documents:Innovative partnership - Shaping learning through the Third Sector, Howarth, ML, Leigh, JA

Key contact: Dr Michelle Howarth

Maternity and early years SIG

The Improving Me partnership (NHS maternity vanguard) and the NW and West Midlands NHSE social prescribing networks work jointly with Public Health England’s Maternity and Community national team to advocate for social prescribing. The alliance believes social prescribing creates an opportunity which not only protects women at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives but equally recognises the value of early years investments. Social prescribing creates an opportunity to address health inequalities as well as stopping them before they start. Improving Me is the only Local Maternity System to have adopted a prevention workstream focused on social prescribing and creative health developments as part of NHS 70 celebrations.

To find out more simply visit the Improving Me webpages and take a look at Baby Week the partnership’s annual campaign and webinar programme. Baby Week 2021 will run from 15-19 November. Save the Date.

The young people’s SIG

The young people’s SIG believe if we adapt social prescribing to suit age-related needs there is no reason why we can’t deliver the same for young people. This SIG for Young People is a place where people can collaborate, share experiences, pass on tips and pool knowledge and resources about all aspects, from planning to promotion, and outcome measurement to quality assurance.

The purpose of the SIG is to save time and money by sharing knowledge and to give local organisations a support network to call upon. They produced a briefing paper from the Young People's Health Partnership on Social Prescribing for Young People which you may find helpful. For further information or to get involved, please contact Paul Jarvis-Beesly or Marcello Bertotti. 

Thriving Communities Network

The Thriving Communities Network links local VCSE groups and organisations together in order to champion their vital role and the impact they have in society. The NW Thriving Communities Network is coordinated sub-regionally in Lancashire and South Cumbria by Christine Blythe and in Cheshire and Merseyside by Jan Campbell. Voluntary Sector North West provides region wide communications for the Thriving Communities activity.

Members can:

  • submit queries, ideas and showcase their work and development,
  • be part of a webinar series which celebrates reductions in health inequalities and,
  • receive guidance and free resources.

It is FREE to join.

Briefing regarding the new social prescribing link worker roles in primary care (Jo Ward)

Jo ward NHS E North West social prescribing co-chair writes, ‘You will no doubt be acutely aware of the launch of the NHS long-term plan in January and with this a renewed focus on combatting health inequalities and embedding personalised care. As part of the long-term plan, funding for social prescribing Link Workers will be released in July. This funding will be tied to GP Direct Enhanced Service (DES) contracts. This is the contract which will set up Primary Care Networks (PCNs) across England. There will be one PCN per 30,000 to 50,000 people which will operate in a “health neighbourhood”.

This contract will include funding for around 20,000 more health professionals including additional clinical pharmacists, physician associates, first contact physiotherapists, community paramedics and social prescribing link workers. Bigger teams of health professionals will work across PCNs, as part of community teams, providing tailored care for patients and will allow GPs to focus more on patients with complex needs. More detail here:

The enhanced service contract is   not compulsory and final sign up will be completed by May  with funding being drawn down from 1st July 2019. NHS England has circulated a short-Shared Place Plan template to CCGs in order to support local social prescribing conversations.

A Quality Framework is being produced in order to support the Directly Enhanced Service for Social Prescribing Link Workers work programme, NHS England and the national network will implementing.

For details on how to join both the North West  you can sign-up online and also link to the national social prescribing network for free.