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Exploring how social prescribing works in socially and economically disadvantaged settings.

© Photo by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash


Social prescribing is being implemented throughout primary care in the NHS. The success of social prescribing relies on link workers being able to build relationships and connections with organisations in the community and with patients.

This project is interested in exploring how link workers build relationships with patients and voluntary and community organisations in areas with high levels of social and economic disadvantage, where community infrastructure may be limited and where patients may struggle to engage.

The aim of the study is to produce findings that may help inform the equitable design and implementation of social prescribing services.

Research question

How do link workers create and sustain networks and relationships for social prescribing in socially and economically disadvantaged settings, and how do these affect patient outcomes and experiences?

Study Design


The research project will involve three related studies:

1)     A meta-ethnography (qualitative systematic review) of link workers’ experiences of undertaking social prescribing. The protocol for the review is registered here.

2)     Interviews with up to 25 link workers exploring their experiences building social prescribing networks and connecting patients. The interviews involve constructing network maps of link worker contacts using Network Canvas.

3)     Mixed-methods case studies exploring the ways in which link workers establish relationships and networks for social prescribing and the implications of these networks on patient outcomes. We will work with 5 link worker cases across different areas in England. The researcher will spend a week with each case conducting fieldwork, including interviews and observations with link workers and patients. Follow-up data collection will take place after 6-9 months.

Study Duration

This study will be completed in April 2025.


This study has been funded by the NIHR School of Primary Care Research (Project no: 529) and the NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship Programme (NIHR302325)


Study Team

Amadea Turk, Stephanie Tierney, Kamal R. Mahtani, Catherine Pope, Bernie Hogan

Key Contacts

Please contact the study lead for further information: