Our National Links Worker programme review activities over 2017 for our annual report.
Change is an appropriate theme to sum up the year of the Links Worker Programme. The publication of the independent research which accompanied the programme saw us move from a research programme, to a permanent service supported by the Scottish Government.
Since 2014 the programme has worked in seven Deep End General Practices in Glasgow and set out to support practice teams to build their capacity for supporting people to address social issues that affect their health, alongside embedding the new role of Community Links Practitioner (CLP) in each practice. The ALLIANCE and Deep End programme now operates in 15 practices across Glasgow and are working to support other organisations in the roll-out of this approach.
The programme is often considered to be simply the introduction of a Community Links Practitioner to Deep End GP practices, however it’s important to remember the work that CLPs lead on in augmenting a ‘links’ culture within general practice. We call this culture the ‘links approach’ and you can read more about how we have developed this culture in one of our Record of Learning modules.
The study found a greater likelihood among staff in participating practices to engage in activities aimed at promoting team wellbeing. It also found that staff in practices that had fully integrated with the programme were less likely to report feeling like they wanted to give up patient care within the next five years. In the context of well documented pressures on general practice and the current drive to enhance recruitment and retention of GPs to ensure future needs are met, this could be a vital aspect of the programme.
In terms of the thousands of individuals the programme is reaching, over 80 per cent of programme participants live in the most deprived quintile of Scotland’s population and had complex problems spanning physical, mental health and social issues.
At the nine-month follow up stage, improvements were recorded in anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as self-reported exercise levels. These improvements were significantly better in those who saw a CLP twice or more and in those who engaged with a suggested community resource via the CLP. This resonates with previous research undertaken on the programme that found community resources in neighbourhoods where the programme is active experienced not just an increase in referrals from general practices, but that these referrals were more relevant and appropriate for the work they do. You can read just some of the stories of the people that we have worked in another of our learning modules.
Finally in September 2017, we welcomed eight new CLPs to the team who have joined eight new practices across Glasgow. You can find out more about the programme and the team at (Insert links page of new site).