Wellbeing and social prescribing

'social prescribing' written on a piece of paper, hanging to a washing line

What is social prescribing?

There is a quiet revolution underway in the world of healthcare, a means of reducing the need for clinical interventions by providing support to people who have mental health issues, are lonely or isolated or who have complex social needs or long-term conditions, by linking them to support in the local community.

This ‘social prescribing’ by GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals addresses the social, environmental and economic factors which impact on patients’ overall health and wellbeing by connecting them to a range of local, non-clinical services.  Such services are often provided by charitable, volunteer and community sector organisations, ranging from housing associations to job centres to police and fire services. Recently the UK Government stated that all GPs will be offering social prescribing by 2023.  

Increasingly social prescribing initiatives involve garden, woodland, library, museum or arts environments. Oxford University and its world-class gardens, libraries and museums are thus uniquely positioned to play a key role in driving the social prescribing initiative forward.

Our work

Members of the Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) team are working with colleagues from the University's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) and Kellogg College to explore ways in which these settings can contribute to people’s health and wellbeing.

Art display from Picturing Parkinson's

GLAM already has a well-established portfolio of health and social wellbeing public initiatives, working with groups ranging from older people to refugees and asylum seekers to people on the autism spectrum. Find out more by exploring a selection of our wellbeing case studies.

Of fundamental importance is that there is already buy-in from other University divisions including Medical Sciences and Humanities, and external stakeholders including Oxford City Council and the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance. Furthermore, the uniqueness of GLAM in connecting Oxford’s gardens, libraries and museums means that the infrastructures are already in place to work across the six institutions.

We have developed a pioneering interdisciplinary Social Prescribing Research Network which brings together Oxford University’s world-class gardens, libraries and museums and its research powerhouse with members of the public, clinical providers, policymakers and other researchers to understand the different perspectives to social prescribing, how patients health and wellbeing can benefit and the mechanisms through which services can be optimally delivered. For more information, go to the Oxford Social Prescribing Research Network website.

While there is an increasing evidence base for the efficacy of social prescribing – some of which can be found in our useful links to relevant wellbeing research and projects section – there is a need for more robust data and this is something in which Oxford is well placed to become a world leader.

Our aims

We work closely with members of the public, clinical providers, the voluntary community sector, policymakers and other researchers to understand the following:

  • Different perspectives of social prescribing
  • How patients' health and wellbeing can benefit
  • The mechanisms through which services can be delivered optimally

If you are interested in finding out more or wish to collaborate on research with us, please contact wellbeing@glam.ox.ac.uk


Banner images: Oxford Botanic Gardens (c) Ian Wallman / Adult learning session in the History of Science Museum / Artist-in-residence Fiona Oakley in the Museum of Natural History