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Exploring the components and impact of social prescribing

Alexis Kilgarriff-Foster (School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom)
Alicia O'Cathain (School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 21 September 2015




Social prescribing are short-term intermediary services that facilitate patients with psychosocial needs to engage in non-clinical support. However, little is known about the components and potential impact of social prescribing. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


A review was conducted to explore the evidence based on social prescribing including mapping its key components and potential impact. Database, internet and hand searching was utilised to identify relevant studies. Data extraction and narrative analysis was undertaken to explore the issues.


In total, 24 studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies were diverse in their methodologies and the services evaluated. Stakeholders such as general practitioners and patients perceived that social prescribing increased patients’ mental well-being and decreased health service use. However, the quantitative evidence supporting this was limited. The only randomised-controlled trial showed a decrease in symptoms and increase in functional well-being at four months. The other non-controlled designs had large drop-out rates limiting their value in determining effectiveness.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is needed on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of social prescribing using robust evaluative designs.


This is the first review of generic social prescribing services focusing on the general evidence base.



The scoping review was conducted by the authors as part of their employment at the School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield.


Kilgarriff-Foster, A. and O'Cathain, A. (2015), "Exploring the components and impact of social prescribing", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 127-134.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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