GPs in Scotland’s most deprived areas have started a petition to challenge a decision to cut the number of community link workers in Glasgow.
Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) is looking to reduce the number of link workers by at least one third.
It said this comes as it is operating in an ‘increasingly challenging environment’, with funding ‘not keeping pace with increasing demand for services’.
But GPs at the Deep End – an organisation that has trailblazed the notion of link workers at Scotland’s most deprived practices – are calling on the Government to ensure sustained funding.
Community link workers (CLWs) are based in GP surgeries across Scotland and offer patients help with housing, benefits, debt, food insecurity, fuel poverty, physical inactivity, loneliness, abuse and more when these impact on their health.
The petition said: ‘Glasgow HSCP plan to cut the number of CLWs by at least one third from April 2024.
‘Across Scotland, the funding for community link workers is short term, insecure and unstable, meaning this is not a local budgetary decision, but one rooted in national funding arrangements.
‘The gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest in Scotland has never been wider. We believe cuts in CLW numbers during a cost-of-living crisis will only widen these health inequalities.’
Dr Carey Lunan, chair of the Scottish Deep End project, told Pulse that the cuts are ‘a devastating blow’ to many of Glasgow’s most vulnerable patients and the teams caring for them.
She said: ‘Community links workers are based in the general practices that serve Scotland’s most socio-economically disadvantaged communities.
‘The planned cuts to the Glasgow community link workforce, where the vast majority of Scotland’s ‘Deep End’ practices are located, is a devastating blow to many of our most vulnerable patients, and the teams caring for them.
‘Community links workers have become an essential part of the primary care team. They also listen to people about what they need to be well and to flourish, and about how to support them to achieve it.
‘The communities affected by this decision are the same communities that were hit hardest by the Covid pandemic and who have been most affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
‘We urgently need a resolution to this crisis, and even more importantly, a commitment to longer term secure and sustainable funding, so that we can avoid this rollercoaster of distress and uncertainty for patients and our community link worker colleagues.’
A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership told Pulse: ‘We invest £2m in Community Links Workers and £20m in other support services in primary care as part of our Primary Care Implementation Plan.
‘CLWs are a valued element of our support for primary care in the city, but we do have finite resources available to us and we must work with the money we have available.
‘We received a formal offer from the Scottish Government regarding additional funding for CLW which we responded to.
‘We are keen to continue discussions with Scottish Government but their offer of funding being contingent on us diverting additional money from other over-stretched services is not something we can comply with given the very serious financial challenges we are facing across all our business.’
Earlier this year, GPs at the Deep End shared concerns about the closure of a specialist GP practice for homeless people in Glasgow.