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SPIDER: The role of Social Prescribing in Deprescribing


Professor Joanne Reeve

Professor Joanne Reeve

Professor of Primary Care Research


April 2023 to September 2024


Why this research is needed

In the UK, a third of all people aged 65 years and above regularly take five or more medicines a day. A Kings Fund report in 2013 recognised that using multiple medicines at the same time can be beneficial for individuals. This is known as Appropriate Polypharmacy. But a growing proportion of people experience Problematic Polypharmacy – when the problems of taking medicines outweigh the intended benefits. So recently, there has been much focus on how we can reduce the burden of medicines for individual patients – for example through deprescribing (stopping medicines).

We explore these issues in detail in our TAILOR project. There we focused on how health services can change. In this innovative new project led by Dr Sara McKelvie at the University of Oxford, we are looking at if and how other people and communities can help with the work of deprescribing and reducing problematic polypharmacy.

Specifically we are looking at whether Social Prescribing initiatives, including Link Workers, may play a part. For example, in looking at alternatives to medication that could help people safely and effectively reduce the amount of medicines they use.

Professor Joanne Reeve (Academy of Primary Care, Hull York Medical School) and Professor Dan Lasserson (University of Warwick) are PIs for this project.

What we are doing

The role of SP in medication review (Lead: Sara McKelvie, Southampton)

Structured Medication Reviews are a tool to help prevent problematic polypharmacy or overprescribing. One way they can help is in identifying alternatives to using medicines to help with people’s daily health problems. But many patients don’t take up the invitation to attend a SMR.

This study asks – can social prescribing help improve people’s access to non-medication related help for their daily health problems?

It is a scoping study which will work with patients, practitioners, and by critically reviewing existing research to understand:

  • what – if any – role there is for SP in addressing problematic polypharmacy
  • what training needs social prescribers would have to work with SMR teams
  • how to best support patients in using the service

Ethics approval has been granted (early 2024) and we are starting work on the project.

Funding: NIHR School for Primary Care Research

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about our research, or if you are interested in collaborating, visiting or postgraduate research opportunities with us.

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