Social Prescribing can realise the positive outcomes it can provide for the person, their families, friends, and community and the reduction in inappropriate use of health and social care services only if Link Workers are set up to succeed.
At NALW we have identified three strategic issues in the way in which social prescribing is being rolled out across communities:
1. Lack of emphasis on co-production: There is not wide enough recognition of the importance of co-production, which is core to Social Prescribing. Patients and Link Workers are essential to successful social prescribing outcomes, yet policies have largely not been informed by them. Co-production isn’t about having some token or tamed representation around the table telling you what you wish to hear.
2. Link Worker inequity: An unhelpful and unnecessary bureaucracy has been created; we now have a two-tier Link Worker workforce which has led to inequity in pay and support.
3. Key learnings have not been acknowledged: Vital knowledge from the National Association of Link Workers has not been acknowledged and learned from, hence we are not surprised by the findings of our recent survey.
Care for the Carer report
We have just conducted research to explore the level and types of support that Social Prescribing Link Workers received and what they need to deliver quality support to people. The results are in our recently published report Care for the Carer , reveal that one in three Link Workers are planning to leave their jobs.
Link Workers told us:
"I feel that I cannot share my ideas and feel undervalued and isolated. I also become concerned that we are not working to the right quality if we are not looking to improve by talking about it. I start to think this may not be the right job as it is not set up properly."
“I dread seeing some clients as I don't know how to deal with them or help them to move forwards. I find it hard to keep their burdens from being my burdens. I sometimes wake up in the night thinking about difficult cases; this gets me down. I'd love to be able to talk things through with a professional. I work in a GP practice but don't have anyone I can talk to about this, so on one level, I feel part of the team, but on another level, I feel very alone."
The report raises quality, safety, wellbeing, and sustainability risks, and the recommendations should be urgently implemented by employers, commissioners, and relevant stakeholders.
The three strategic issues and the issues raised in the report needs to be addressed to enable social prescribing flourish.