Qualifications and training needs of social prescribing link workers: an explorative study

Llinos Haf Spencer*, Mary Lynch, Abraham Makanjuola

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review

Abstract

Background
A social prescribing link worker is responsible for enabling and supporting individuals, by assessing their needs and co-producing solutions to make use of appropriate, local, non-clinical resources or interventions. Because the role is new, link workers might not have professional backgrounds in dealing with individuals with complex needs, which can affect their decision making for the referral of individuals to appropriate community assets to support their needs. The aim of this work was to explore link workers' level of education, and past and current training needs, and to ascertain how much link workers were willing to pay to access and complete training to improve their skill set.

Methods
A mixed-methods approach was used, including semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders who commission and deliver social prescribing interventions employing link workers, and a stated preference techniques questionnaire containing contingent valuation questions. A thematic analysis approach was used to identify concepts of interest to develop the survey, which contained stated preference techniques to estimate the value of access to training by link workers. Descriptive statistics were used to describe and summarise the data.

Findings
54 respondents took the survey. 23 (43%) held an undergraduate degree and 13 (24%) held a Masters' degree as their highest level of education; the remainder 18 (33%) did not have a graduate qualification. Social prescribing coordinators (n=6) interviews and link worker surveys (n=54) reported personal skills as the most essential skills required by link workers in developing relationships for effective social prescribing interventions. Training is available for link workers; however, training varies depending on the type of intervention delivered, with 38 (70%) of 54 link workers previously completing training to facilitate their development as a link worker. Results from the stated preference techniques questionnaire (n=54) indicated that 100% of the respondents would consider benefitting from training. Link workers are willing to pay an average of £58 from their personal funds to access training and the associated benefits to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Interpretation
Our findings suggest that training needs to be included in social innovation funding applications to ensure that link workers receive adequate training to carry out their role of effective future social prescribing interventions. For the community of practice in social prescribing, training for link workers should be made available in their own local areas. External funding for the salary of the link worker is an obstacle for link worker development through training. Willingness-to-pay findings suggest that link workers place value on their professional development and would be willing to spend their own money on training to improve their knowledge and skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S79-S79
Number of pages1
JournalThe Lancet
Volume400
Issue numberSupplement 1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • social

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