Social prescribing for primary care in the UK: costs and health benefits are uncertain

Added April 23, 2020

Citation: Bickerdike L, Booth A, Wilson PM, et al. Social prescribing: less rhetoric and more reality. A systematic review of the evidence. BMJ Open 2017; 7: e013384

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic is placing a strain on health systems and healthcare workers. Existing research on social prescribing, which links patients in primary care to sources of support within the community, may provide information to ease this.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for research evaluating any form of social prescribing programmes that had been conducted in the UK. They restricted the search to publications in English between 2000 and January 2016 and did the searches in February 2016. They included 1 randomised trial, 1 non-randomised trial, two qualitative studies, 4 uncontrolled before-and-after studies and 8 descriptive reports.

What was found: Patient experience reports were generally positive about social prescribing in the UK, but the effects are not quantifiable.

Although there may be a reduction in primary care and secondary care contacts, the extent of this, and the costs and health effects of social prescribing are uncertain.


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