Guest Blog: Social Prescribing and PCNs

October 24 2019

Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are recruiting social prescribing link workers to work as part of PCN team. The funding available for the additional link workers in PCNs covers 100% of the individual’s salary plus employer on-costs up to an annual maximum amount of £34,113 in 2019/20 based on a weighted average. Link workers are the only one of the five additional roles coming into PCNs where the salary reimbursement is at 100%. Questions are emerging though around what impact funding the role at this level may have for systems where existing link workers are paid less than that? Will this distort existing wage structures and bring further instability to local voluntary sector organisations?

PCNs have local discussion and decision-making responsibility to determine the appropriate level at which to recruit social prescribing link workers. However, it is important for localities to work in partnership and it would be helpful for PCNs and their clinical directors to engage with local system partners to agree shared plans, before deciding the basis on which to recruit. Without some local planning there is a risk that existing organisations who are providing high quality link worker and social prescribing services outside of the PCNs and the Network Contract DES could be destabilised.

It is important to remember that this is year 1 funding of a programme that will run for at least 5 years and that the numbers of link workers will grow during that time, bringing much needed additional capacity to support GPs. As the number of link workers grow there will be increased need for supervision and support for these new roles. Creating more senior link worker positions at Band 5 level would seem to be an obvious way to create capacity for supervision, as well as providing opportunities for career progression which will encourage retention of existing workforce.

If you’re interested to read more on implementing social prescribing in your PCN, NHSE have produced some additional resources including a Social prescribing summary guide. This guide includes implementation checklist that you might find helpful as well as a common outcomes framework. The framework has been designed so that it’s flexible enough to be utilised in areas where social prescribing is already well established but also, so it can be introduced quickly and easily in areas that are new to social prescribing.

NHS England also host fortnightly webinars designed for social prescribing link workers and those working within primary care.  The webinars will focus on a range of topics, covering some of the key approaches to effective social prescribing, including safeguarding, care and support planning, developing links with community organisations and more.  The full list of dates and topics can be found on the NHSE website here.

In addition, to learn more about social prescribing and personalised care in general, please visit the RCGP Person-Centred Care Toolkit here.

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