We are working with our Academic Partners to review, synthesise and report on what the evidence tells us about particular themes in social prescribing. In 2021, we consulted with people from across the social prescribing pathway, who told us that they wanted to know what the evidence showed about:

  • Measuring outcomes for social prescribing
  • The economic impact of social prescribing
  • Funding models for social prescribing
  • Who is and isn’t being referred to social prescribing?
  • Accessibility of social prescribing schemes in England to people from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse population groups.

The Academic Partners screened and reviewed what the current evidence base tells us about each of these topics. (See individual summaries for methodology.)

Measuring outcomes for social prescribing

  • The evidence suggests that social prescribing can have a positive impact on a very wide range of outcomes, including decreases in loneliness, improvements in mental health, in social connections and in overall wellbeing.
  • There is less evidence on the medium-long term impact of social prescribing, and research in this area is required.

Read our briefing 

Download the Academic Partners summary

Download the Academic Partners summary- long term impact

The economic impact of social prescribing

  • The evidence suggests that social prescribing can reduce pressure on primary care and save costs.
  • The evidence about impact on secondary care was inconclusive, although some studies reported a reduction in primary care use.
  • The evidence demonstrated a favourable social return on investment (SROI) in most cases where a range of outcomes and costs were considered.

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Download the Academic Partners summary

Funding models

  • The current evidence shows a range of different funding models for social prescribing, which include a diversity of funding sources such as private, public and charitable.
  • Regardless of the funding model used, the evidence suggests that the most effective models and approaches are those where a range of local partners work together, and that it is important to recognise the challenges in doing this.

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Download the Academic Partners summary

Who is and isn’t being referred to social prescribing?

  • Social prescribing in England is an all-age offer, with Link Workers engaging with individuals across all age groups. However, only a small proportion of the studies reported working with children and young people under the age of 16.
  • There are some other demographic differences, for example there appears to be a gender divide, with the literature reflecting the fact that nearly twice as many women than men are accessing social prescribing.

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Download the academic summary

Accessibility of social prescribing schemes in England to people from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse population groups.  

  • People from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse population groups are under-represented in social prescribing. Furthermore, there is currently very limited evidence available to help us understand why this is the case.
  • Given the very extremely limited evidence based, we need a far more complete picture of both awareness and use of social prescribing services by people from ethnically diverse population groups.

Read our briefing 

Download the academic summary