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Social prescribing

Social prescribing, sometimes referred to as community referral, 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.

Social prescribing schemes 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.

GPs can use the “Herts Help” service to refer people in need – using the same process as if they are referring for medical treatment. This is a ‘single point of access’ service, which gives access to the wide range of services in the voluntary and community sector that GPs and the patient may not know about.  And the patient doesn’t have to accept the label ‘carer’. The “Community Navigator Service” compliments “Herts Help” where people need a face to face visit to talk things through.

For more information on Herts Help Hospital and Community Navigator Service, please visit or to refer someone, call 0300 123 4044. 

More Information


Social prescribing video

Through social prescribing a GP can get patients the help they need using a person called a community navigator. Community navigators work with patients and help them find ways to resolve these sorts of issues.

The Hertfordshire and West Essex STP team has created a film that shows how, across Hertfordshire and west Essex, health and care teams are working together in this way.  

PPG involvement in Social prescribing - A case study

The Patient participation group (PPG) at the Maltings Surgery in St Albans has played an active part in social prescribing since 2017.

The Herts Valleys community navigator service, along with the local CVS, trained 10 volunteers from the PPG (some who were new to the group) to deliver and lead weekly social prescribing clinics within the surgery, which GPs can refer patients to

The PPG volunteers had the tools to be able to signpost and refer patients to wider community universal services and voluntary sector organisations.

With such a strong relationship between the PPG volunteers and the community navigators, people who were identified as having complex or challenging social prescribing needs were then referred to the Community Navigator team who could then undertake a holistic social prescribing with the patient.

The positive impact of this initiative was evident with the following outcomes:

  • Increased wellbeing for vulnerable patients

  • Reduction in social isolation of vulnerable patients

  • More appropriate use of primary care

  • Reduction in the number of GP appointments for non-clinical reasons

  • Increased pool of patient volunteers actively volunteering within their GP practice

  • This model provides a source of ‘light’/’medium’ social prescribing support within GP practises, with ‘holistic’ social prescribing being provided by the wider community navigator service.

The Malting’s PPG are now sharing their expertise and experience with other PPGs across Herts Valleys


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