Social prescribing myth buster

Social prescribing myth buster


A comprehensive guide by London Arts and Health designed to dispel some of the myths surrounding social prescribing in the arts and cultural sector.


This guide has been a year in the making and we at London Arts and Health are so excited to see these resources come to life as a downloadable guide, website, podcasts and video.

I want to thank the Culture and Creative Industries Unit, GLA, for starting the process and for all the incredible arts practitioners, medical and care staff and funders we have worked with to produce this.

Creative activity has long been known to have tangible effects on health and quality of life. The arts, creativity and the imagination are agents of wellness: they help keep the individual resilient, aid recovery and foster a flourishing society.

Arts in health programmes across the capital are using diverse and dynamic disciplines in a variety of health, care and community settings for expressive, restorative, educational and therapeutic purposes.

London faces one of the highest levels of health inequality in the world. With life spans of residents living just streets apart varying greatly. Covid-19 has highlighted and increased the divide in the health and wellbeing experienced in the city.

In our current political and economic climate, arts in health offer a professional, value-for-money contribution to mainstream health care as part of the social prescribing movement and yet we know that many of our members and the cultural practitioners across the Capital are struggling to get involved in the process.

This guide is designed to dispel some of the myths surrounding social prescribing in the arts and cultural sector. We recognise the importance of hyperlocal grassroots organisations in leading the London recovery and we aim to ensure a level playing field for all who offer culture and arts for health and wellbeing.

Head and shoulders of Jenni Regan  Jenni Regan, Director, London Arts and Health

Introduction: what is arts and cultural prescribing?

Humans have long used arts as a way to make sense of the world, build connections and define themselves whilst benefiting from the arts’ therapeutic effects.

Many of us recognise that the arts and culture can make us feel better.

Social prescribing, in its simplest form, is a way to build on these ideas, through the active recommendation of arts and culture on prescription. But many people are not sure what social prescribing means, how it can benefit them, or how they might get involved in activities. Arts and culture on prescription, through NHS referral or self-referral can benefit everyone, from children to adults, older generations and families alike.

This simple guide aims to debunk some myths associated with social prescribing by providing straight-forward information for the individuals or arts cultural organisations looking to deliver social prescribing activities. We have also produced a podcast series, speaking to people involved in arts and cultural social prescribing across London

Social prescribing and community-based support enables all local agencies to refer people to a ‘link worker’ to connect them into community-based support, building on what matters to the person as identified through shared decision making / personalised care and support planning, and making the most of community and informal support.
(NHS England Universal Personalised Care, p.21)

Download the guide as a PDF (opens in new window)

Download a social prescribing checklist (opens in a new window) 

Listen to the podcasts

Episode 1. Stuart Cox, St. Margaret's House

In the first episode, host Anna Woolf chats to Stuart Cox who is the Arts and Wellbeing Director from St. Margaret's House in East London. At St. Margaret's House, many arts and wellbeing organisations situated in the building have been working together to tackle social prescribing in a holistic way. Stuart explains how.

Episode 2. Wayne and the English National Opera, ENO Breathe

In the second episode, host Anna Woolf chats to participant Wayne. Last year Wayne took part in ENO Breathe, an online programme developed in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The programme has been specifically developed for people recovering from COVID-19, who are still suffering from breathlessness and its associated anxiety. In this episode, Wayne describes how this arts and cultural programme on prescription has helped him in his own recovery. ENO Breathe 

Episode 3.Veronica Franklin Gould, Arts4 Dementia and social prescribing referrals

In the third episode, host Anna Woolf chats to Veronica Franklin Gould, the founder from Arts 4 Dementia. Arts 4 Dementia believes that people living with dementia and their carers have the right to enjoy life to the full. In this episode, Veronica talks specifically about the process of referrals in arts and culture on prescription, and gives advice on how to get referrals for your own arts on prescription programmes.

Arts 4 Dementia London Arts in Health Forum

Watch the animation 

The Arts and Culture: Social Prescribing Myth Buster was created by London Arts in Health, and was  commissioned by the Mayor of London and his Culture and Creative Industries Unit.

The guide has been researched and written by Anna Woolf and London Arts and Health, with special thanks to Director Jenni Regan and Communications lead Neil Parker. Further thanks go to the wider GLA Culture and Health teams, in particular Jacqueline Rose, Clare Lovett and Mike Clewley for all their help and support.

London Arts and Health would also like to recognise and give thanks to all the key stakeholders who contributed to the research, development and feedback on this guide; including London Arts and Health members, podcast interviewees, members from St. Margaret’s House, and primary care staff who consulted on the material.

The Arts and Culture: Social Prescribing Myth Buster was designed by Keith Hagan.
The website design is by Louise at Scallywag Design.

Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2021