Social prescribing during and after COVID-19: Mapping changes, impact and opportunities for working with older adults

The goal of this studentship will be to work in collaboration with local, regional and national partners involved in social prescribing to understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on social prescribing.

Start date

1 January 2021


3 years full-time

Application deadline

Funding source


Funding information

The funding package for this studentship scheme is as follows:

  • Full UK/EU tuition fee waiver
  • Stipend at UKRI rates (circa £15,000 p.a.)
  • Personal Computer (provided by the host department)


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the psychosocial wellbeing of older adults across the UK, with many reporting increased feelings of loneliness, social isolation, depression and anxiety. Social prescribing (where an adult is linked with a link worker who ‘prescribes’ a community-based activity) has been identified by the NHS Long Term Plan as a fundamental service for improving psychosocial wellbeing in the community. However, many different services and workers involved in social prescribing have experienced notable challenges at a time when they are needed more than ever before by older adults. 

Working in partnership with local, regional and national organisations involved in social prescribing this studentship will answer the following questions:

  1. What is the current and ongoing impact of the pandemic on social prescribing?
  2. How has social prescribing supported older adults during the pandemic?
  3. How could social prescribing be used to support older adults during the pandemic recovery?

You will work alongside researchers across the University of Surrey and University of Kent. Your primary supervisor will be Dr Kimberley Smith (Lecturer in Health Psychology: School of Psychology) and your second supervisor will be Dr Nicola Carey (Reader in Long Term Conditions: School of Health Sciences). You will also be supported by a third supervisor at the University of Kent Dr Sarah Hotham (Senior Research Fellow: Centre for Health Services studies).

The project will involve mixed methods research and also working closely with community partners in Surrey and Kent.  We are looking for a student who feels passionately about conducting research with older adults, with a strong desire to engage in applied health research which has the potential to influence policy and practice. We are also looking for someone with excellent communication skills, experience in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and an interest in developing research into social prescribing.

Related links

ARC-KSS Surrey Kimberley Smith Nicola Carey Sarah Hotham

This work will be conducted in collaboration with Voluntary Action Southwest Surrey, INVOLVE Kent, The Health and Wellbeing Connection and the Campaign to End Loneliness.

The student will be based at the University of Surrey, Guildford. However, as part of their project they may work with participants across Southwest Surrey and Kent. 

Eligibility criteria

Open to UK/EU students with the following qualifications:

  • Undergraduate upper second degree in psychology (or a related degree) minimum 65%
  • MSc degree in relevant subject (Psychology, Social Sciences or Health) minimum 65%

IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category


How to apply

To apply potential students should complete a cover letter demonstrating their interest in, and suitability for, the project. We would also like a CV detailing your previous research experience, and two academic references. Students will also be required to complete the application form found for PhD programmes in psychology at the University of Surrey.

Interviews will take place the week commencing the 14th December.

Application deadline

Contact details

Kimberley Smith
38 AC 05
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686743


The project would span a number of research groups and themes in the university including the Health Psychology research group (School of Psychology, University of Surrey), the Long-term Conditions and Ageing cluster (Health Sciences, University of Surrey) and the University-wide Lifelong Health strategic research theme. Within the ARC-KSS Surrey the project is aligned to the primary and community health services theme.

You can read more about the research themes and ARC-KSS below:

ARC-KSS Surrey

Lifelong health strategic research theme

Health Psychology research group

Long-term conditions and ageing research cluster


Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.