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Practices’ citizens advice scheme lauded by public health chief

The chief of Public Health England has praised an early intervention scheme where practices run a weekly Citizens Advice Bureau clinic.

In his ‘Friday message’ to staff, Duncan Selbie highlighted an initiative in Derbyshire where 98 practices run a weekly clinic operated by the Citizen´s Advice Bureau as an example of good partnership.

However, GP leaders said practices do not have the space to offer this on a wider basis.

Mr Selbie wrote to staff: ‘Local government can leave the rest of the world standing when it comes to creating innovative partnerships across communities. For example, in Derbyshire there are 102 GP practices, of which 98 have a weekly clinic operated by the Citizens Advice Bureau to ensure people have access to help which can resolve stressful issues such as housing, employment and benefits problems or any other matter getting in the way of their good health.

‘This initiative has been led by Derbyshire County Council and entirely supported by their CCG partners. We know that not having enough money to live on, or somewhere decent to live are barriers to people’s good health and wellbeing and here we have the voluntary sector, council and CCGs working together in a way which means people have support through early intervention advice services and avoiding the potential need for expensive health care later on.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair said: ‘Many surgeries, including my own, have CAB workers doing sessions in the practice. This can be very helpful to refer patients to who primarily have debt and financial problems that are impacting on their physical and mental health.’

’However CAB services are under threat because of local authority financial cuts and many practices simply don’t have the space within surgeries to accommodate any extra services offering debt counselling even if they wanted to.’

’We highlighted the need for CAB and other support staff in our document “Developing General Practice today” last year. PHE could help us obtain the additional funding to support this practice team development but we also need a real and sustained investment in premises development to provide the necessary space to accommodate more support staff.’

Dr David Jenner, a GP in Cullompton, Devon and NHS Alliance general practice network lead said: ‘If we had the room (most don’t) and someone would pay a market rent it’s possible. So where there’s space and funding for rent and the skilled people funded to do it, no problem.’