Working in social prescribing services: a qualitative study

J Health Organ Manag. 2019 Nov 4;34(1):40-52. doi: 10.1108/JHOM-02-2019-0050.


Purpose: Social prescribing (SP) is an emerging area of public health that has the potential to alleviate pressure on primary care by offering non-clinical solutions to health problems. Whilst there is an increasing body of literature exploring service design and impact, there is little research that focuses specifically on the SP workforce. The purpose of this paper is to explore routes into SP, worker's experiences of the sector and potential career progression.

Design/methodology/approach: For this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight members of the SP workforce with varying levels of responsibility from within six different organisations in an urban/suburban area of South West England. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings: Pathways into the sector were varied, and those without direct experience often brought transferable skills from other professions. Careers in SP were clearly rewarding, and some providers had established good support structures for staff. However, some participants were in need of additional training in areas such as collaborative working and staff management. Staff working at a more senior level - particularly in community-based organisations - seemed less well supported overall, with limited career progression. Staff in such organisations also reported working beyond contractual hours.

Originality/value: This study has revealed inconsistencies between the experiences of staff in some community organisations vs those associated with larger, more established services. It has also highlighted a need for further training and capacity building in some areas. These findings may be of interest to those commissioning or funding SP services in the future.

Keywords: Career development; Healthcare workforce; Primary care; Social prescribers; Social prescribing; Workforce.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Female
  • Health Personnel*
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care
  • Professional Role*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Staff Development