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Social prescribing (SP) typically involves linking patients in primary care with a range of local, community-based, non-clinical services. While there is a growing body of literature investigating the effectiveness of SP in improving healthcare outcomes, questions remain about how such outcomes are achieved within the everyday complexity of community health systems. This qualitative case study, informed by practice theory, aimed to investigate how SP practices relevant to people at high risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) were enacted in a primary care and community setting serving a multi-ethnic, socioeconomically deprived population. We collected different types of qualitative data, including 35 semi-structured interviews with primary care clinicians, link workers and SP organisations; 30 hours of ethnographic observations of community-based SP activities and meetings; and relevant documents. Data analysis drew on theories of social practice, including Feldman's (2000) notion of the organisational routine, which emphasises the creative and emergent nature of routines in practice. We identified different, overlapping ways of practising SP: from highly creative, reflective and adaptive ('I do what it takes'), to more constrained ('I do what I can') or compliant ('I do as I'm told') approaches. Different types of practices were in tension and showed varying degrees of potential to support patients at high risk of T2D. Opportunities to adapt, try, negotiate, and ultimately reinvent SP to suit patients' own needs facilitated successful SP adoption and implementation, but required specific individual, relational, organisational, and institutional resources and conditions. Feldman, M.S., 2000. Organizational Routines as a Source of Continuous Change. Organ. Sci. 11, 611-629.

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Journal article


Soc Sci Med

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