Lancaster University: New Lancaster University research to examine NHS’ use of ‘social prescribing’ in region

A new research project led by Lancaster University Management School will examine how the NHS uses ‘social prescribing’ – where health professionals refer patients to support in the community to improve their health and wellbeing – across South Cumbria and Lancashire.

After receiving a £180,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as part of the ‘Scale up health inequality prevention and intervention strategies’ scheme, Dr Mahsa Honary from Lancaster University Management School will lead the new project with support from colleagues in the University of Brighton, and partner organisations including Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS and community-based social prescribing providers Green Close (Art organization), Mandala Preston CIC, Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) and The Gathering Fields wellbeing centre.

Building on earlier Lancaster-led research and using the local community providers collective 55 years’ of experience, the research will explore how social prescribing initiatives can expand and grow within integrated care systems to ensure they are accessible to those who need it most.

Dr Honary explains: “Our project will look specifically at how social prescribing is currently delivered as part of NHS in the region, exploring its challenges and benefits. By working with the NHS and our experienced social prescribing partners who are already providing an extensive programme of art, nature and physical activities in partnership with our local NHS, we will see academics who are experts in management and computing and health research join forces with health care providers, GPs, Social Prescribing link workers, patients and third sector organisations to produce a set of recommendations – ensuring all voices are heard.”

With the North West of England identified as an area that faces inequalities in terms of accessing health services, researchers say the project falls in line with Government’s levelling up ambitions and its regional insights could be shared more widely to benefit communities nationally.

Dr Honary continues: “By investigating and reflecting together, we hope to co-produce ideas and offer robust solutions at the end of the 12-month project that will enable the existing social prescribing programme to become more sustainable for the future and potentially more scalable for the wider UK.”

After conducting theoretical research and a series of in-depth interviews and focus groups during the project, researchers will compile a series of recommendations and map out current and ideal ‘referral models’ for social prescribing which will then be presented during a ‘citizens jury’ event towards the end of the project. This event will bring together partners, stakeholders and policy makers to review, test and finalise materials.

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