Published date: 29 April 2024

How to set up a social prescribing site

“One good social relationship will add seven years to your life. Having that relationship is almost as important on your health and wellbeing as quitting smoking” Simon Banks, Place Director of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board. Many of our daily worries can lead us to feel stressed and isolated and the support available isn’t always easy to find.

To help address this, since 2019, we’ve delivered 100 social prescribing hubs across England to bring people together and improve health and wellbeing. Working with our partners, we’ve learnt lots about what it takes to transform vacant indoor and outdoor spaces of all shapes and sizes across the country to create community hubs. 

Hubs like Flourish Wellbeing Hub in Wallasey for example, have had a huge impact on the local community. Citizens Advice Wirral, along with four other local charities, provide services from Flourish Wellbeing Hub. Since November 2022, they have supported 1306 residents. Watch the 3 minute video to find out more about Flourish Wellbeing Hub.

Simon Banks, Place Director of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board said, “I think this (Flourish Wellbeing Hub) is a really good example of how NHS Property Services can work with local communities and local places. 
Transforming spaces can be a large undertaking and we work closely with ICBs, Trusts and the third sector to adjust spaces to meet the needs of the local community. Knowing where to start might seem impossible but if you follow these steps below, you’ll be going in the right direction. You can always reach out to our team for more support here.  

Identifying user groups

No two sites are the same and what your local area needs will be unique to you, but we can help support you along that discovery. Discovering how your community can benefit from the space allows you the opportunity to start connecting with people right away. Start the conversation at your local café, library or community centre. You can ask people what support they feel they need and what areas they’re worried about in their lives.  
Connect with a local GP practice through practice managers or receptionists to find out what services are heavily used and what’s frequently requested or appoint a local representative to conduct some research for you.  

Evaluate the groups already established in the area and connect with them - they might offer some experienced insight. Get more ideas about how to engage in our research report whereby The Health Creation Alliance interviewed ten different community groups to find out what they want and need from community spaces. 
After reviewing the requirements for the Wallasey local area, Matilda Jones, Social Prescribing Hub Facilitator said “It’s about addressing those wider determinants of health, the impact of debt, poverty, depression, anxiety, physically restricting health conditions, the cost-of-living crisis we’re going through. 
Our social prescribing map allows you to see the sites already active and the work they’re focusing on.  

Find the space

Before Flourish Wellbeing Hub took over the space for their services, it had been vacant for over three years. Set on the second floor of the local hospital, it was an ideal location for people to access and a great place to promote their services. 

No matter how small, any space can be utilised, but location is key. Your hub needs to be accessible to everyone in the community and public transport links are important, as found in our report (see section five here). All of our hubs are set in previously vacant spaces in health centres, GP practices and hospitals.  

Unlocking funding

Once you’ve established the local need and service offers for your social hub, you can seek funding to drive the next steps. When writing your applications, it’s key to collaborate with local healthcare providers to demonstrate a clear plan for implementation and advocate the long-term benefits both to the community and local healthcare resources.

There’s lots of funding options available to support social prescribing hubs and our team can help you unlock investment to make the most of your site.  Take a look at our guide to writing funding applications to help you write impactful business cases. 

Leasing agreements and facilities management

Depending on your project, you might need a lease or light touch agreement. This will state the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved. Make sure you speak to all involved parties and carefully consider where responsibilities sit. You’ll need to do this before starting any works.

Indoor or outdoor spaces need to be maintained. Where possible, include this in the lease or agreement.  Ensure you have clear agreements around utility bills, maintenance costs, statutory testing requirements and other facilities management responsibilities

Make the space yours
Whether you hold the space or share it, we advise a non-clinical approach. While some spaces may need total reconfiguration and refurbishment, there’s lots of small things that can be done to make a big difference, view our infographic here.  
Make people feel comfortable and welcome in the space by offering lots of seating options and refreshments if your budget allows. If you’re offering multiple services, involve everyone in the design and make sure the space is versatile.  

We worked with the team at Flourish Wellbeing Hub to design the space for their needs and the community. We reviewed each space and worked with local people; they were key in providing details and were involved from the very start.  
Phil Scott, Senior Transaction Manager at NHSPS, lead the transformation of the space and said “architects had a number of meetings with the Flourish team and discussed the requirements and how it was important that the clinical environment was reduced to encourage customers to use the rooms. Warm colours and a more homely environment were key.

With the NHS Long Term Plan having pledged to refer 900,000 people to social prescribing hubs by the end of this year, the growing demand for these services is very present.

For more advice and guidance, see our social prescribing page here, or access our toolkit below for support from funding applications to social media.   

Download your social prescribing toolkit

  • An eight-step guide on how to set up a site.
  • A guide to help you write impactful funding applications.
  • An infographic to help you identify space opportunities.
  • Two case study templates to help you to promote your services.  
  • Top tips for how to use social media to promote your services
  • Key contacts and website for more information on creating and managing community wellbeing sites. 
Download here
Designing NHS buildings for social prescribing

Get in touch with us for more information

If you’d like any advice or want to chat about how we can best use the NHS estate for social prescribing, please get in touch with our Customer Service Centre.

Flourish wellbeing hub yellow roomFlourish wellbeing centre orange roomsocial prescribing room at Flourish wellbeing hub