Social Prescribing and Navigation

Social prescribing and navigation schemes both direct patients through an increasingly complex health landscape, generally away from clinical treatment and towards social and community-based services. In Bristol, in particular, there is currently a range of such services. As a general rule, social prescription refers from general practices, whereas navigators can take referrals from a range of sources, but these are not hard and fast definitions. This infographic provides an overview of social prescribing and navigation services across the region. This is a fast-changing field, so please contact us with any updates you are aware of at

What are the ultimate aims of social prescribing and navigation schemes?

All of these schemes direct people to services, but the motivations behind this vary. Reducing hospital admissions and readmissions is a stated aim of several schemes. In the NHS Rapid Review of 2016, the top outcome of The Camden Stroke Navigation Service was ‘no readmissions at 6 weeks and 6 months post stroke compared to a 7.5% baseline’. The NHS five year forward view proposes a different vision, one of a system in which clients and services are more accurately matched. Some schemes are underpinned by a model of individual wellbeing. Connect for Health, the social prescribing service to improve health and wellbeing for people living in South and East Leeds, goes further in its stated aim ‘to help and support patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle, prevent illness or manage existing health problems and long term conditions in a way that cannot always be solved through traditional medical routes alone’. Others, contrastingly, are more interested in holistic system change – Dorset Community Action have a VCSE community navigator as part of their ‘Better Together’ programme, a programme whose aim is to ‘coordinate and optimise the social, medical and psychological health of patients in the community’.

What are the most common approaches of these programmes?

The model of a link workers based in surgeries: In the West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing project, the Brighton and Hove Community Navigation Pilot and Dundee Equally Well care navigators were based in each surgery. Bromley-by-Bow’s service is funded by Macmillan and has staff based in a centre receiving referrals from a range of sources. Volunteer navigators are used in the Brighton and Hove navigator project while unqualified clinical staff navigate in the Cumbria pilot and the Bristol Mental Health recovery teams.

What is the typical client group?

There isn’t one. In the NHS Cumbria CCG Care Navigators Pilot, patients are 75 years and over who are frail and at risk of unscheduled admissions to acute care. North Somerset’s Care Navigator service is for people aged 18 and over who are responsible for paying for their own social care. While Bristol Mental Health’s recovery navigators are intended to ‘assist people during a period of acute mental health crisis, with daily health, social care and wellbeing needs, building resilience and connecting into community resources’.

For more information

  • For a more in depth national study of social prescribing please look at the University of Westminster’s Making Sense of Social Prescribing at