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How Social Prescribing Works

A pathway to better health and wellbeing 

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Social Prescribing empowers people with social, emotional or practical needs to find practical solutions with the support of a Social Prescribing Link Worker.


Who is the service user?
Social prescribing is for adults over the age of 18 years, including (but not exclusively) people:

  • With one or more long-term conditions.

  • Who has complex social needs which affect their health and wellbeing? 

  • Who are lonely or isolated.

  • Who needs support with their mental health.

  • Who frequently attend GP/ED and may benefit from other social support outside of clinical services. 


Who refers the service user to the Social Prescribing Link Worker?

Referrals to a Social Prescribing Link Worker come from various sources, including:

  • GPs, nurses, community mental health teams, and health and social care professionals.

  • Older people services and the community and voluntary sector.

  • Self-referral and referral by a friend or family member.

The role of the Link Worker

The Social Prescribing Link Worker aims to connect people with community groups, organisations, and statutory services for practical and emotional support to improve their health and wellbeing.  They may also link people back into HSE programmes and services where appropriate, e.g., diabetes support courses, Living Well programmes, stress prevention programmes, smoking cessation services, etc.

Social Prescribing Link Workers focus on what matters to the person and work in true collaboration with an individual over a period of time.  Working with the individual, they establish the service users' needs and goals, using a personalised coaching and co-production process, which helps motivate, support and empower the person to achieve the change(s) they want.  It is essential to highlight that social prescribing does not replace adequate clinical, social work or counselling services.


One of the key tasks of a Social Prescribing Link Worker is to co-produce a personalised health and wellbeing plan with the client.  This may include:

  • What matters to the person.

  • Establishing attainable goals.

  • Signposting professional support that someone may require.

  • Connecting to the local community and voluntary organisations, activities and social groups.​

If a referrer is unsure of the appropriateness of a referral to social prescribing, this can be discussed with the Social Prescribing Link Worker beforehand.  Likewise, the Social Prescribing Link Worker can revert to the referrer if the referral is inappropriate. 

For more information, please read the HSE Social Prescribing Framework, mainstreaming social prescribing in partnership with community & voluntary organisations guide.

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