Social Prescribing

A research project

As part of the Barber Health project, research is taking place into the social prescribing landscape in Birmingham.

Is there a place for the Barber here – and if there is, what does it look like, can we fill the gap, and how can we make it sustainable?

If you are not familiar with the term, social prescribing connects people to practical and emotional community support. This is most commonly facilitated by social prescribing link workers, who are based in GP practices and take referrals from all local agencies.

Our research into social prescribing will be stepping up a gear in the coming months as we begin working with community partners in Northfield. Northfield is a residential area located in south Birmingham – less than five miles from the Barber, Northfield is one of our neighbouring communities. Our project partners are Northfield Neighbourhood Network Scheme (who support older adults in Northfield) and Northfield Community Partnership (who support the wider Northfield population). We’ll be working together to further develop our knowledge and understanding of the needs of people in the area.

We are delighted that two students from the University of Birmingham’s Pharmacy course have joined us for their fourth-year elective placement. Zaynab Noor and Ajmal Ahmed will be working with us until March 2022.

I wanted to take part in this elective placement to prove to society that there are other ways to improve health and wellbeing, rather than just relying on medication.

Being a Pharmacy student at the University of Birmingham with the Barber Institute located right on our campus, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to utilise the resources available to us to help achieve this!


They will be running focus groups in Northfield with the aim of listening and learning to better understanding the needs of the Northfield community. We hope this will help us to identify whether there are ways for the Barber to develop a sustainable offer that will contribute positively to the many amazing activities that already fall under the social prescribing umbrella locally.

Shelagh, our Barber Health Coordinator, has joined the second cohort of the Midlands Learning Together programme, a free and flexible six-months of learning, sharing and networking opportunities run by the National Academy of Social Prescribing. It brings people together from the arts, natural environment, financial wellbeing, health, physical activity and care sectors to share learning, discuss challenges and build partnerships. Shelagh feels confident that the knowledge and understanding she gains by attending this programme, along with the learning acquired through the community focus groups, will guide the Barber in making considered and thoughtful decisions for potential future social prescribing provision.

Please contact Shelagh Musgrave, Barber Health Coordinator, for further information:

We are grateful to Northfield Neighbourhood Network Scheme and Future Proof who kindly made contact with some local groups in Northfield who became our focus group participants.

University of Birmingham pharmacy students, Zaynab and Ajmal, supported by Shelagh, ran two sessions; one with the coffee morning group at Oddingley Hall, and the other with the Monday group at Reaside Community Centre. Thanks to all participants for sharing their time and thoughts with us.

The groups were varied: some people had never been to an art gallery, some had not visited the Barber in particular, or heard of the Barber at all. We had anticipated a mixed response, and it was interesting to explore this further and understand what might prevent people from engaging with the arts.

The term "social prescribing" was new to many people at the groups, but there was immediate recognition that socialising with people in your local community - and doing this on a regular basis over a shared activity - is valuable in supporting your own wellbeing, both physical and mental.

The Oddingley Hall group joined in a short session exploring the composition of artworks, and enjoyed the discussions around lines, light and points of focus. It is truly rewarding to know that this group are now planning to visit the Barber in early 2022.

Zaynab and Ajmal will be taking some time to analyse, interpret, and summarise the responses from the focus groups over the coming weeks, before preparing a presentation which will share their findings with the Barber's Learning and Engagement team.