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Social prescribing link workers: celebrating the glue in health and social care

Christiana Melam

  • Person-centred care

On 8 July 2019, London is hosting a national Social Prescribing Link Worker conference in celebration of the first ever Social Prescribing Link Worker day.

The day is devoted to showcasing the impact of social prescribing link workers on the health and wellbeing of the population. It highlights the importance of a group of people that are vital for society, but whose role is often misunderstood.

What is a link worker?

Social prescribing link workers use strength-based approaches to increase people’s confidence to take control of their health and wellbeing. They work in partnership with people, actively listening to understand what matters to them from a holistic perspective, cocreating action plans and goals to meet their needs. This means they need to gain and maintain people’s trust and confidence.

Preserving the noble profession

There is a need to understand and preserve the nature of social prescribing link workers’ roles. The role is rich and varied, extending through many disciplines. However, some work needs to be done to create and maintain public confidence and trust in the link worker profession so that it can deliver improved health and wellbeing outcomes for people using services, carers and communities. Preserving the integrity of the role and ensuring quality across the profession is important as well. Once there is a full understanding of the role and maintained public trust, people will see that link workers can act as the glue between the community, health and social care, joining it all together.

Culture of learning and encouraging participation

The best way to develop understanding and to learn about the profession’s importance is through effective engagement with existing social prescribing link workers. Furthermore, as NHS England plans to recruit 1,000 social prescribing link workers in Primary Care Networks as part of the NHS Long Term Plan from July, it is important to take cues and be informed by existing link workers, so all new recruits are geared up to succeed. Our ‘getting to know the link worker workforce’ report highlights the knowledge, skills, experiences and support needs of existing link workers. It presents an opportunity to be informed about setting up the new recruits to succeed.

A Social Prescribing and Social Prescribing Link Worker social movement is necessary for sustainability. Therefore, it is important to encourage participation, volunteerism, and greater fresh entry into the profession to meet the anticipated rise in demand.

Ensuring personalised social prescription and building community resilience

Social prescriptions need to be person–centred and offer choice and control. It is essential that people are prescribed community service based on their individual needs, strengths and abilities. At the same time, the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE) has a huge role to play and it is important to build its capability and capacity. Social prescribing link workers only offer initial support; it is the VCSE that takes it from there and so resourcing the sector to be able to provide long term support to the individual is essential.

The first ever Social Prescribing Link Worker Day is being marked by a national conference. The day will be spent highlighting the importance of the profession and some issues being faced by it, sharing national best practices, along with attempts to increase national interest and raising link workers’ ambition.

National Association of Link Workers is the largest professional network for link workers increasing professional consistency and competence. Its membership provides social prescribing link workers and their employers with a single point of access for link worker support and development.