Westminster Health Forum

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Priorities for delivering social prescribing - progress, integration, funding, scaling up, and helping meet the challenges of COVID-19 recovery

Morning, Tuesday, 7th September 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will discuss priorities and next steps for the delivery of social prescribing - particularly its role in recovery from the pandemic.

The discussion takes place with:

  • the NHS Long Term Plan citing personalised care and the development of social prescribing as key ambitions
  • the introduction of the Health and Care Bill, with measures to support delivery of the Long Term Plan, and enable all aspects of the health and care system to work more closely together, as well as supporting the integrated delivery of care closer to home

The conference will be an opportunity to discuss how social prescribing can meet increased demand, and support community health in the recovery from the pandemic - following increased funding and workforce recruitment during the pandemic, intended to tackle loneliness and health inequalities.

Key areas for discussion:

  • progress - assessing the delivery of social prescribing so far, integration with primary care, and the key priorities for scaling up provision
  • next steps and funding priorities - what is needed to enable social prescribing to meet increased demand from the pandemic and to scale up effectively
  • learning from the pandemic - the delivery of social prescribing through the health emergency, and its role in supporting community health in the UK’s recovery
  • workforce development - continuing the momentum in developing the skills of those working in social prescribing so as to meet demand and long-term ambitions
  • service development - utilising the NHS estate, maximising opportunities for holistic community care, and building partnerships
  • quality and evaluation - developing the evidence base and best practice, and measuring effectiveness

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from DHSC and Defra.

The agenda:

  • Priorities for social prescribing in the recovery from the pandemic and supporting community mental and physical health
  • Integrating with primary care, and lessons from providing joined-up community healthcare during the pandemic
  • Assessing progress so far in the development of social prescribing and the wider policy landscape
    • commissioning, integration, and improving community health
    • service provision during the pandemic
    • next steps for scaling up
  • Utilising the NHS estate to deliver effective social prescribing within the community
  • Developing the social prescribing workforce, best practice, and quality standards
  • The role of the voluntary sector in supporting the delivery of long-term ambitions for social prescribing
  • Evaluating social prescribing in practice - measuring effectiveness, and improving access and patient experience
  • Priorities for research and innovation to enhance the delivery of social prescribing
  • Supporting social prescribing referrals in the recovery from the pandemic, and tackling inequalities
  • Next steps for delivering long-term ambitions for social prescribing - funding, best practice and collaboration

Key areas for discussion:
Learning from the pandemic response:

  • how practice has adapted - including link workers taking a more proactive approach to supporting patients, and looking at the options for developing this going forward
  • integration with primary care:
    • how the pandemic has supported the integration of social prescribing within primary care
    • looking at the role it has played within the primary care response to health and wellbeing during the pandemic
  • collaboration:
    • examining the development of local partnerships and networks to support the delivery of social prescribing through the pandemic
    • how this can be built upon to meet demand and long-term ambitions
  • community health - the role of social prescribing and personalised care in enabling care closer to home and within the community during the pandemic

Assessing progress so far:

  • commissioning:
    • evaluating the approaches taken in different areas, and examples of effective commissioning of services
    • priorities for collaboration between CCGs and local authorities
    • assessing options for co-commissioning and integrating social prescribing within other schemes
  • personalised care:
    • looking at delivery so far, and the role it has played in reducing strain on NHS resources in the pandemic
    • addressing social determinants of health, and supporting the management of long-term conditions
    • priorities for building awareness of patients being put at the centre of their care
  • integration:
    • looking at integration within primary care, and how priorities and pressures arising from the pandemic have contributed to progress
    • assessing the role of primary care networks in supporting community resilience
    • strategies and options for furthering integration
    • what healthcare reforms could mean for bringing together actors within the healthcare system to improve community health
  • service provision:
    • what has the experience of providers been in service delivery, adapting practice through the pandemic, and the role of volunteers in delivery
    • priorities for supporting people to reconnect with the community in the recovery from the pandemic
    • the role in assisting mental health recovery
  • patient experience:
    • looking at progress, and priorities for meeting patient needs and improving outcomes
    • supporting inclusivity, and the development of language support to improve access
  • scaling up progress:
    • assessing what is required to build upon and scale up progress and best practice in social prescribing provision
    • how to deliver this at pace to meet demand in the recovery from the pandemic
    • priorities for funding
    • latest thinking on ways to avoid variation and gaps in provision

The NHS estate:

  • funding and investment - priorities for investment and the development of the NHS estate to support social prescribing and increased community health provision
  • regional focus - how the estate can support community health and wellbeing, and how best to utilise facilities to provide maximum holistic care within local areas

Wider healthcare policy landscape:

  • the Health and Care Bill - assessing proposed measures, and ways to take forward advances in social prescribing, including:
    • supporting integration between different health and care actors across local areas
    • enabling care closer to home within the local community
  • the new Office for Health Promotion - priorities for:
    • achieving the opportunities it presents to improve mental health, support physical health, and coordinate improvements to public health
    • using data and a preventative approach
  • health inequalities:
    • latest thinking on ways that social prescribing can support tackling inequality
    • best practice in reaching out and methods of identifying patients that can benefit from a personalised approach to their care


  • recruitment:
    • what is needed to maintain momentum in delivering the social prescribing workforce, as the ambition for 1,000 link workers by 2020/21 is achieved
    • the priorities for developing a workforce able to deliver the aim of 900,000 referrals by 2023/24, and the next steps for putting this into place
  • primary care networks:
    • engaging with primary care networks and demonstrating the value of social prescribing link workers
    • how the role of link workers within primary care networks is developing, and looking at outstanding issues and next steps
    • working with primary care network leadership to drive forward the social prescribing workforce
  • volunteers:
    • evaluating the role that volunteers have played in delivering social prescribing services during the pandemic
    • what a more long-term role could look like in supporting the delivery of social prescribing ambitions and meeting increased demand from the pandemic
  • support priorities:
    • what funding and local leadership is required to provide the workforce needed to enable patients to receive social prescribing through the recovery from the pandemic
    • how to manage increased demand
  • training, standards and flexibility:
    • best practice in building training and development programmes for the social prescribing workforce
    • how to develop standards and training whilst maintaining the flexibility and the integrated community nature of link workers

Quality and effectiveness of provision:

  • evaluation - measuring the effectiveness of social prescribing and its impact, and opportunities for developing and setting guidelines
  • learning - priorities for research and innovation to support effective scaling up of social prescribing, and sharing best practice and developing the evidence base
  • inequalities - how best to minimise variation in service provision

Funding and next steps:

  • funding - utilising funding awarded to tackle inequalities and support wellbeing through pandemic recovery
  • NHS Long Term Plan - wider funding priorities to achieve the ambitions set out in the Plan
  • collaboration - building on the collaborative approach taken during the pandemic and sharing best practice to drive progress

The context for discussion:

  • the NHS Long Term Plan - outlining NHS objectives for the next decade, with personalised care a key ambition
  • the Health and Care Bill - setting out reforms to support the delivery of integrated care in local areas, support community health, and deliver the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan
  • £1.8m Thriving Communities Fund - set up to assist social prescribing projects which support those affected most by COVID-19 and health inequalities
  • £5m funding awarded to the National Academy for Social Prescribing - to support initiatives within communities that improve connectedness, health, and wellbeing following the pandemic
  • Social prescribing and NHS facilities - a report looking at how the estate can improve support for community health and social prescribing, published by Kings Fund and NHS Property Services
  • link workers - NHS England driving recruitment of link workers for social prescribing to tackle loneliness and support health during the pandemic
  • A Social Revolution in Wellbeing:
    • the National Association for Social Prescribing’s strategic plan
    • focusing on raising awareness, building resources and relationships across sectors, and developing and sharing evidence
  • Green social prescribing expressions of interest - a cross-government project which aims to improve access to, and use of, green spaces to support mental health
  • Build Back Fairer: the COVID-19 Marmot Review:
    • calling for more investment in public health to mitigate how the pandemic affects health inequalities
    • setting out the need for a multi-sector approach, and action to build back fairer
  • the new Office for Health Promotion:
    • set up to support improvements to public health, including supporting mental and physical health
    • the Office will use data and preventative approaches to enable a more joined up system to drive health improvement

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from Defra and the DHSC.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, and senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with regulators, pharmaceutical companies, representatives from the NHS, executive agencies including clinical staff, pharmacists, CCGs, local government, the independent and third sectors, patient and community groups, law firms, consultancies, and others affected by the issues discussed, as well as academics and think tanks, and reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

James Sanderson

Director of Personalised Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement and Chief Executive Officer, National Academy for Social Prescribing

Christiana Melam

Chief Executive, National Association of Link Workers

Keynote Speakers

Christiana Melam

Chief Executive, National Association of Link Workers

Dr Michael Dixon

Co-Chair, Social Prescribing Network, Chairman, College of Medicine and Visiting Professor, University College London (pre-recorded presentation)

James Sanderson

Director of Personalised Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement and Chief Executive Officer, National Academy for Social Prescribing

Rhea Horlock

Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, NHS Property Services


Speaker confirmed from the National Association of Primary Care

Siân Brand

East of England Regional Facilitator and Learning Coordinator, NHS England

Tim Anfilogoff

Head of Community Resilience, Herts Valleys CCG and Regional Associate, Social Prescribing, East of England, NHS England

Ed Nicholas

Programme Manager, Ramblers Walking for Health