NHS England wants to recruit an additional 500 social prescribing link workers, as part of plans to overcome the loneliness and isolation brought by Covid-19.
To do so, it is funding a time-limited support offer to cover recruitment and induction costs for additional primary care network (PCN) directed enhanced service (DES)-funded social prescribing link workers.
Link workers can be employed directly by PCNs, or by local voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations.
Funding can be provided for VCSE organisations to provide a full recruitment and induction service, with the first link worker provided with a one-off fee of £3,000 (including VAT), and £2,600 for each subsequently.
This includes advertising the post, processing applications, shortlisting applicants, virtual interviews, taking up references, DBS checks and notifying candidates and basic induction, ensuring that the link worker has access to appropriate equipment and supervision.
For PCNs that prefer to undertake the recruitment process themselves, there is the option of a recruitment administration service from the South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit. This includes processing applications, setting up interviews and supporting DBS checks.
In a letter to primary care leaders, Ian Dodge, national director of strategy and innovation at NHS England, said: ‘This offer will be available for six months from 3 August 2020 to 31 January 2021. All PCNs interested in expanding the number of DES-funded SPLWs are encouraged to submit an expression of interest. This should be returned to [email protected] by Monday 24 August.’
Announcing the funding, NHS England said the NHS would be ‘recruiting a growing army of social prescribing link workers to combat loneliness and isolation fuelled by coronavirus’.
Dr Nikki Kanani, London GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said this comes as ‘link workers have been front and centre of the NHS’ response to Covid-19, helping some of our most vulnerable people with everything from accessing vital medicine to relieving loneliness during the lockdown’.
She added: ‘And as the NHS continues to support Covid patients while offering its usual world class care, link workers will remain vital, helping to improve people’s quality of life and emotional wellbeing and keeping them healthy.’
According to NHS England, one in five people who visit a GP surgery do not have a medical problem, but can benefit from meeting others or a healthier lifestyle.
As part of its Long Term Plan, it committed to employing 1,000 social prescribers by March 2021, but the predictions of a surge in mental health on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic have exemplified the need.
A version of this story first appeared in our sister title Pulse.