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Service user perspectives on social prescribing services for mental health in the UK: a systematic review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew CooperORCiD, Dr Darren Flynn, Dr Leah Avery, Linda Errington



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Aim: To thematically synthesise adult service users’ perspectives on how UK-based social prescribing services support them with their mental health management. Methods: Nine databases were systematically searched up to March 2022. Eligible studies were qualitative or mixed methods studies involving participants aged ⩾ 18 years accessing social prescribing services primarily for mental health reasons. Thematic synthesis was applied to qualitative data to create descriptive and analytical themes. Results: 51,965 articles were identified from electronic searches. Six studies were included in the review (n = 220 participants) with good methodological quality. Five studies utilised a link worker referral model, and one study a direct referral model. Modal reasons for referral were social isolation and/or loneliness (n = 4 studies). Two analytical themes were formulated from seven descriptive themes: (1) person-centred care was key to delivery and (2) creating an environment for personal change and development. Conclusions: This review provides a synthesis of the qualitative evidence on service users’ experiences of accessing and using social prescribing services to support their mental health management. Adherence to principles of person-centred care and addressing the holistic needs of service users (including devoting attention to the quality of the therapeutic environment) are important for design and delivery of social prescribing services. This will optimise service user satisfaction and other outcomes that matter to them. Keywords: systematic review, social prescribing, qualitative synthesis, mental health, public health, primary care

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cooper M, Flynn D, Avery L, Ashley K, Jordan C, Errington L, Scott J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Perspectives in Public Health

Year: 2023

Volume: 143

Issue: 3

Pages: 135-144

Online publication date: 26/05/2023

Acceptance date: 14/05/2023

Date deposited: 05/02/2024

ISSN (print): 1757-9139

ISSN (electronic): 1757-9147

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/17579139231170786


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