Social prescribers can make a huge difference to the NHS and society as a whole

On Social Prescribing Link Workers Day, Christiana Melam chief executive of the National Association of Link Workers reflects on what social prescribers have already achieved and what is needed to ensure social prescribing can deliver greater change in the future.

Christiana Melam, chief executive, National Association of Social Prescribing Link Workers
Christiana Melam, chief executive, National Association of Social Prescribing Link Workers

This year’s Social Prescribing Link Workers Day is extra special as it is celebrated over two days. Yesterday (Thursday) we held the inaugural Link Worker Day 2020 awards to celebrate the impact of social prescribing link workers and recognise all those who have made outstanding contributions to powering up community wellbeing. The award categories reflect the four essential pillars for social prescribing success.

This year's link workers day also coincides with world mental health day and held during black history month. It also sees the launch of our book of social prescribing link workers' impact and the employers guide to supporting link workers. Both are useful resources and can help organisations see the benefits social prescribing can bring and provide practical advice on how GP practices, primary care networks and others can support link workers to help improve community wellbeing.

Before COVID-19 and throughout the pandemic the National Association of Link Workers members have made tremendous contributions to powering up community wellbeing, resulting in positive impacts not only in health and social care but across all sectors of society.

The future of social prescribing

They are confronting a time of global challenge, wrestling with COVID-19 and supporting mental and physical wellbeing, and reducing health inequalities. At our awards yesterday and our conference today (9 October) we will be celebrating what social prescribing link workers have achieved in the UK and also being ambitious for the future.

As we forge ahead, we must ensure social prescribing link workers are equal partnes in the NHS workforce and embedded within the mutidisciplinary team in primary care. They need to be provided with the necessary training, clinical supervision, resources, and support to enable them to carry out their role safely and effectively - this will help the NHS reap the benefits that social prescribing brings.

Social prescribing link workers enable the NHS to stay true to its founding principles. The NHS was founded by communities wanting to do something about inequity and inequalities. Social prescribing is about empowering individuals and communities to help them introduce and sustain changes.

Social prescribing should not have a top down approach, or a tick box exercise. We need to ensure it stays true to the guiding principles of being co-owned by the communities and people it seeks to help.

  • Christiana Melam is chief executive, National Association of Link Workers

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