Social Prescribing Innovators Programme

What is the programme?

The programme supports people on the frontline of social prescribing in London to overcome challenges and improve services’ ability to tackle health inequalities, through developing leadership skills, quality improvement and testing new ways of working.

More about the programme

Social prescribing has evolved rapidly in recent years and there have been amazing achievements across London in embedding social prescribing. However, we know that there are still many challenges to delivering an impactful service, in particular within:

  • The access and uptake and experience of social prescribing among specific cohorts of people who face greatest health inequalities and would benefit most
  • Recruitment and retention of Social Prescribing Link Workers leading that enables a thriving workforce that champions tackling health inequalities
  • Demonstrating the impact and benefits of social prescribing on individuals, communities and the healthcare system

Those working on the frontline and closely within social prescribing have the insights and abilities to tackle these challenges.

The goal of this programme is to empower individuals and teams to develop meaningful solutions to systemic challenges they face through providing training, support, funding and a peer group of innovators to work alongside.

We hope the learnings and networks formed, as part of the pilot programme, will continue to support improvement work in social prescribing through developing a collective of innovators and a blueprint for how this can be done with future cohorts.

Find out more about the Innovators Toolkit here!

An Innovators Programme has four key benefits:

  • It upskills and develops local frontline leaders
  • It builds change capability and capacity in local services
  • It strengthens networks between partners and communities
  • It enables challenges to be tackled in a sustainable and cost-effective way

The Social Prescribing Innovators Programme was a six-month pilot programme in 2022/23 enabling 12 improvement projects led by people on the frontline of social prescribing in London to thrive and tackle health inequalities. You can find out about the programme approach here.

How was the programme evaluated?

  • A three-part qualitative evaluation was undertaken with UCL department of health informatics and TPHC.
  • The evaluation took a deep dive into the impact of the programme on social prescribing services, health care, the participants involved and communities impacted by health inequalities.
  • It did this through in-depth interviews with eleven project leads across ten of the projects.

What were the key findings?

  • Access to social prescribing increased and experience of services improved among people impacted by health inequalities.
  • Social prescribing services were able to change how they were working, putting communities at the heart and co-producing for the first time.
  • Relationships between GPs, social prescribing services, VCSFE and Local authority improved and there was more engagement with SP services.
  • Co-production was the key tool, enabling participants to become leaders and influence services and partners to make improvements.

What are the conclusions?

  • Combining community development and QI approaches enables Social Prescribing services to unlock their full potential in tackling health inequalities in a cost effective way.
  • Co-production is the key tool to develop relationships between services and communities and influence change in the NHS.
  • The Social Prescribing workforce is a huge asset in tackling health inequalities. By giving them the space, support and funding to carry out projects, they can have a huge impact on patients, communities and influence culture change in the NHS.

What are the implications?

  • The NHS and other statutory bodies should invest in social prescribing and specifically the social prescribing workforce, including roles employed by the voluntary sector.
  • Managers should ensure their SP workforce and other frontline staff have time to engage with communities and carry out co-production activities and lead change projects.
  • An Innovators approach should be considered by all bodies who have a stake in tackling inequalities and supporting the needs of local populations.

Read more in depth findings from the evaluation, including the barriers and enablers here.

Successful applicants benefited from a 6-month programme of support to help deliver projects against their specified ‘challenge’.

This included:

  • 4x Monthly Quality Improvement training sessions (half day)
  • 3x Bi-monthly Skills share and Peer Co-consult group (2 hours)
  • 3x Bi-monthly 1:1 coaching sessions (45 min)
  • 3x Bi-monthly Board check-in, support and feedback (1.5 hours)
  • Monthly drop-in support sessions (1.5 hours)
  • Networking opportunities with cohort as well as wider partners
  • Access to support through partners on a decision-making board, with expertise across a wide range of specialised topics
  • Optional mentoring support in specific subject areas from organisations at Digital Health London, including experts from Joy and Limbic.
  • Participants brought a challenge that acts as a barrier to social prescribing being able to deliver an impactful service and received wraparound support to lead meaningful improvement projects
  • Participants were expected to attend all mandatory sessions and commit required time and resource to their projects throughout the 6 month programme
  • Projects all focused on solutions to support social prescribing service design – rather than funding voluntary/community sector activities which individuals are referred to
  • Participants were expected to share outcomes and learnings publicly at the end of their project – even where key deliverables were not yet achieved

rnResources for the applicants in the 2022/23 participant cohort:

The Innovators Toolkit guides you through the approach, process and learnings from the Social Prescribing Innovators Programme (SPIP) pilot. It summarises the key ingredients and considerations when planning your own Innovators Programme.

Learn more about the Innovators Toolkit here.

Contact us

If you’d like to learn more about the programme, including any learnings from the approach and how you can apply this approach yourself, please email the Social Prescribing team at: