The Glasgow ‘Deep End’ Links Worker Study Protocol: a quasi-experimental evaluation of a social prescribing intervention for patients with complex needs in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation

Stewart W. Mercer, Bridie Fitzpatrick, Lesley Grant, Nai Rui Chng, Catherine A. O'Donnell, Mhairi Mackenzie, Alex McConnachie, Andisheh Bakhshi, Sally Wyke


Background: ‘Social prescribing’ can be used to link patients with complex needs to local (non-medical) community resources. The ‘Deep End’ Links Worker Programme is being tested in general practices serving deprived populations in Glasgow, Scotland. Objectives: To assess the implementation and impact of the intervention at patient and practice levels. Methods: Study design: Quasi-experimental outcome evaluation with embedded theory-driven process evaluation in 15 practices randomized to receive the intervention or not. Complex intervention: Comprising a practice development fund, a practice-based community links practitioner (CLP), and management support. It aims to link patients to local community organizations and enhance practices’ social prescribing capacity. Study population: For intervention practices, staff and adult patients involved in referral to a CLP, and a sample of community organization staff. For comparison practices, all staff and a random sample of adult patients. Sample size: 286 intervention and 484 comparator patients. Outcomes: Primary patient outcome is health-related quality of life (EQ-5D-5L). Secondary patient outcomes include capacity, depression/anxiety, self-esteem, and healthcare utilization. Practice outcome measures include team climate, job satisfaction, morale, and burnout. Outcomes measured at baseline and 9 months. Processes: Barriers and facilitators to implementation of the programme and possible mechanisms through which outcomes are achieved. Analysis plan: For outcome, intention-to-treat analysis with differences between groups tested using mixed-effects regression models. For process, case-study approach with thematic analysis. Discussion: This evaluation will provide new evidence about the implementation and impact of social prescribing by general practices serving patients with complex needs living in areas of high deprivation.

Journal of Comorbidity 2017;7(1):1–10


general practice, primary care, multimorbidity, complex interventions, health inequalities

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    ISSN 2235-042X