#OTalk 14th April – Social Prescribing and the future of Occupational Therapy

This week @adamjacksonot is hosting this is what he has to say.

Hi, I’m Adam – A little bit about me… I’m a 3rd year student at the University of Derby, finishing this June.  I have been on quite a varied placement set, including:  Rampton Hospital, Kingsmill Hospital – Stroke Unit and Ash Green Specialist Community Learning Disability Service.

My interest in Social Prescribing (SP) began when it was briefly mentioned in our first year at University – later sharing an edit of a particular diagram of The Social Prescribing Process that now has just over 42,000 twitter impressions.  This created quite a conversation around the understanding of SP and OT and thus began my curiosity in OTs potential role.

My current literature review and research proposal is looking at the current Evidence-base and Outcome Measures used to gauge the efficacy of Social Prescribing schemes and exploring OT’s potential contribution in supporting the evidence-base and sustainability of this ever-growing healthcare agenda.  

Hopefully this OTalk can develop our understanding of its current application in practice and gather thoughts on the potential role or implication for future Occupational Therapy practice.

Social Prescribing

  • ….is a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services.​
  • Recognising that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors, social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way. It also aims to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.​
  • ….can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.​

Kingsfund (2019)

Social Prescribing is not a new concept, as such – nor is it exclusively eluding Occupational Therapy –  RCOT have long been campaigning for the voice of Occupational Therapists to be heard within Social Prescribing and there are examples of success when Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy involvement is supporting the development of the agenda (for example; Salford Prescribing Hub).  However, almost consistently, current literature and research into Social Prescribing schemes, does not yet acknowledge or involve Occupational Therapy or Occupational Science.   Instead, concluding that whilst continually perceived as beneficial by the patient, lacks a solid evidence base or outcome measure – in turn questioning it’s sustainability.

Though Occupational Therapy was not initially listed as a profession to be funded under Social Prescribing schemes within Primary care (NHS England, 2019), there has been a lot of recent movement towards including and developing the role of Occupational Therapy in Social Prescribing.  This included the ‘Driving Social Prescribing Forward: AHPs Framework’, followed by the ‘Public Health England: Social Prescribing AHP Strategic Framework’.  `Most recent change saw OT being formally named in the new GP Contract (Department of Health and Social Care, 2020) – allowing for Primary Care funding of Occupational Therapists to potentially support and develop SP Schemes within them.

Alongside this, there is also growing conversation and change within OT curriculum in the UK, to explore and adapt to this changing landscape of healthcare.  Canadian and Australian Occupational Therapy has led the way on developing and analysing the opportunities Social Justice and Community (or Social) Occupational Therapy can provide – creating intervention on a Public Health level in response to personalised care and preventative care agendas, as mentioned by WFOT.

Thew et al (2017) highlighted the potential for Social Prescribing as an Emerging Role within Occupational Therapy.  Is this change of approach in mainstream health services, an opportunity to see the return and resurrection of core Occupational Therapy practice?

Questions I would like to consider:

  1. What is your/ your teams current understanding a) Social Prescribing and b) it’s link/relationship with Occupational Therapy?
  1. What are your experiences with Social Prescribing Services/ Agenda; either directly or indirectly? (ie working within a scheme or come across it in training, conferences, education etc)
  1. As the interest in OT for Public Health grows and Community or Social level Occupational Therapy increases; Do you think Occupational Therapy is able to rise to the challenge, and why – if not, what are the barriers?
  1. There appears to be little research, if any literature at all, on Occupational Therapists within Social Prescribing Services – Why do you think this is?
  1. Occupational focus and Holistic practice are at the core of Occupational Therapy profession.  How do you think the ‘shifting and sharing’ of this knowledge and evidence base will shape the future of Occupational Therapy practice?


Department of Health and Social Care (2020) 15 Billion to Deliver Government Commitment for 50 Million more General Practice Appointments, Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/15-billion-to-deliver-government-commitment-for-50-million-more-general-practice-appointments (Accessed: 21/02/20)

Dyson B (2014) The University of York Centre for Reviews and Dissemination. Evidence to inform the commissioning of social prescribing, Available: http://www.york.ac.uk/media/crd/ Ev%20briefing_social_prescribing.pdf  (Accessed: 21/02/20)

NHS England (2014) Five-year forward view, Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ 5yfv-web.pdf (accessed 23/11/19)

NHS England (2019) Social prescribing link workers: Reference guide for primary care networks, Available: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/pcn-reference-guide-social-prescribing.pdf (accessed:21/02/20)

Thew M et Al (2017) Social prescribing: An emerging area for occupational therapy, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 80(9) 523–524, DOI: 10.1177/0308022617700905 

Kingsfund (2019) What is Social Prescribing? Available: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-prescribing, (accessed 23/11/19)

Post Chat Updates:

Online transcript from HealthCare# 

PDF of Transcript: #OTalk Healthcare Social Media Transcript April 14th 2020

The Numbers

1.937M Impressions
521 Tweets
77 Participants

#OTalk Participants

1 thought on “#OTalk 14th April – Social Prescribing and the future of Occupational Therapy”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.