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A realist evaluation of Social Prescribing



Staff, Students, Academics

Speaker: Dr Marcello Bertotti

"An exploration into the context and mechanisms underpinning a pathway linking primary care with the voluntary sector"

Dr Marcello Bertotti

Dr Marcello Bertotti is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Health and Human Development (University of East London). He is mainly interested in exploring the role of social connectedness for the improvement of health and well-being drawing on insights from different conceptual traditions. He has recently conducted a range of evaluations of social prescribing in Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney, the latter of which was one of the largest evaluations conducted in the UK to date.


Primary care faces considerable challenges including the increase in long term conditions, high rates of GP consultations, and widening health inequalities. With its emphasis on linking primary care to community services via a Social Prescribing Coordinator (SPC), social prescribing could reduce the burden on primary care, tackle health inequalities and encourage people to make greater use of assets available in the community.

A realist approach was used to evaluate a social prescribing pilot. It unpacks the contextual factors and mechanisms that influenced the development of this pilot and reflects on the realist approach as a tool for the evaluation of health interventions. The analysis was based on qualitative interviews with users, commissioners, a GP survey, focus groups and stakeholders learning events. We adapted the realist approach by subdividing the social prescribing pathway in stages, each with contextual factors, mechanisms and outcomes.

SPCs were pivotal to the effectiveness of the intervention and responsible for the activation and initial beneficial impact on users. Although social prescribing shows significant potential, several challenges exist including ‘buy in’ from some GPs, branding, and funding for the third sector. The realist evaluation approach is useful in understanding how to improve health interventions and analyse stakeholders’ contribution.


Lunch will be provided from 12:45. The seminar will commence at 13:00.

Please accept the invitation only if you will be attending for catering purposes.

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When and where

12.45pm - 2.00pmMonday 13th March 2017

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