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In this blog, researcher Debra Westlake describes how she and colleagues, alongside the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Group that supported an NIHR funded study, developed a training infographic for social prescribing link workers.

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A research project led by researchers from the University of Oxford (Stephanie Tierney and Kamal Mahtani) has spent 30 months studying the implementation of social prescribing link workers in primary care in England. Seven PPI group meetings were held throughout the study; members were supportive and collaborative and highly engaged with the research process. Each meeting resulted in useful reflections for the research team on our methods or early ideas about our data from the perspective of members of the public.  

These reflections fed into our ongoing analysis and the dissemination of our findings – as academic articles, blog posts, conference, and workshop presentations. As the study progressed, we consulted with the group about the content and format of potential alternative outputs to customary academic formats. The group felt strongly that our data showed induction into the link worker role was often absent, and supervision and training opportunities were difficult for link workers to identify. They highlighted that ongoing support for the role was not always available. The research team were aware of various training offers in social prescribing from NHS England, the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), the National Association for Link Workers (NALW) and other national and local bodies. However, these training opportunities had not been collated in one place so that link workers could easily access them – particularly when they were newly in post. This was an area that our PPI group felt should be given attention.  

Developing the infographic

I followed up on the idea suggested by the PPI group and produced a draft infographic for their comments; it comprised a roadmap for link workers and their managers on available induction and training. The information on a single page includes links to websites where training offers reside across different organisations.

The infographic provides information about where the training offers fit in the sequence for new link workers (induction, mandatory trainings, supervision, and further development) and whether training is free or chargeable. For example, at a national level both NHS England and NASP have developed an induction pack for link workers which are free and available online. There are also local NHS primary care training hubs which provide free training for staff at all Primary Care Networks in the country.  

The Personalised Care Institute (part of the NHS) provides online, accredited training programmes for specific roles working in personalised care – for example a Level 3 qualification in social prescribing. The NALW provides a level 5 qualification in social prescribing. Both these courses are chargeable, which might influence whether link workers can access them.

The infographic was initially developed to highlight to the PPI group various training opportunities available to link workers. However, the group suggested we share the infographic more widely, believing it would be helpful for those working in social prescribing who might not be connected to more national organisations or networks. We see the training roadmap as a living document – updates will occur over time. We hope that it will support link workers and their managers to think about and to plan and access training they will find useful.

The link worker study mentioned in this blog is funded by a grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR130247). The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or the author’s host institution.