Growing a social prescribing Community of Practice in North Wales
Updated: Mar 10, 2022
On Social Prescribing Day, Nina Ruddle, Head of Public Policy Engagement at Wrexham Glyndwr University and joint social prescribing lead for the 2025 Movement, reflects on the development of social prescribing practice across North Wales and the impact of the growing Community of Practice developed through 2025.
Social prescribing continues to be a vital part of our shared aim at Wrexham Glyndwr University through our Civic Mission and the 2025 Movement to tackle social and health inequalities across North Wales.
At a time when our society is recovering from the collective trauma and ongoing impact of the pandemic, it is needed now more than ever as individuals, families and communities come to terms with the impact of the last two years.
This is why it has been developed as a key priority of 2025 through the ‘Just Do Team’ approach which brings together leaders and practitioners from across North Wales to design and test ideas and develop solutions and approaches around health inequalities.
Made in North Wales
The aim of the JDT that I lead together with Glynne Roberts, Director at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, is to take forward a ‘Made in North Wales’ approach to social prescribing.
Our region is leading the way in social prescribing innovation and practice, but we recognised that there are still challenges that we need to be creative in addressing. The evolving evidence and research base means that social prescribing is often only piloted across the region and results in gaps in provision and approaches.
Even though there is a growing evidence base, social prescribing programmes are not core funded, and so attract varying levels of adoption by each participating organisation, who have to apply for varying levels of funding. Often, the limited funding leads to limited impact, especially as if programmes within the same region are unconnected, are unable to communicate with each other, and therefore fail to capture learning.
Growing a Community of Practice
A key focus for us at 2025 was to establish and grow a Community of Practice (CoP) to enable us to harness the strength of social prescribing practice in North Wales and respond to the challenge of how to reimagine health services, social services and the third sector provision.
Launched four years ago, the CoP has grown significantly with over 300 practitioners attending our events, and working together to share good practice, reflect on the challenges, and explore innovative ideas and new ways of working.
Our CoP is also a partner in the Wales School for Social Prescribing Research, a long-term sustainable model that brings key practitioners from across a range of backgrounds together to develop, improve, connect and share social prescribing practice.
The next challenge is supporting the CoP to grow, ensure we stay relevant to the needs of the community we serve, and creating a strong platform for engagement and influencing the commissioning, funding and support for social prescribing to focus on prevention.
Research and impact
A key focus for our work through the Community of Practice is exploring how we can better evidence the impact of social prescribing, which is being done in a wide range of ways.
For example, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has joined forces with tech for good company, Elemental Software, to use their platform to capture the progress and impact of projects such as the North Wales Community Support Hubs pilot and the Warm Wales project to support people at risk of fuel poverty.
The data captured through this partnership, together with other evaluation work that has been commissioned, will be invaluable because it will enable us to really demonstrate the health and wellbeing outcomes that have been achieved through a social prescribing approach.
Influencing national policy
The impact and influence of our Community of Practice continues to grow across North Wales and beyond, and we’re delighted that we are going to be the first CoP to feedback back on Welsh Government’s All Wales Social Prescribing Review at our next event in April.
This is hugely significant, because it means we have an opportunity to influence national thinking around the model for social prescribing, and it is our chance to really influence how new and emerging challenges are addressed for the future.
This event is taking place on 5th April, and it really is a valuable opportunity to highlight the breadth of experience, knowledge and innovation practice that exists here in North Wales and develop a coordinated response, so please do save the date and look out for more details coming soon.
The foundations for all our work to tackle inequality is the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) Act 2015. Through the work we have developed around social prescribing in North Wales, we have been invited to take part in collaborations to shape the Future Generation Commissioner’s social prescribing priority and share learning, as well as attending groups at Welsh Government level. This is a great testament to the recognition our region is gaining around this agenda.
By working together, we can continue to champion and be the voice for social prescribing across North Wales and make an even bigger difference in tackling health inequalities across the communities we all serve.