Our 34 Community Links Practitioners have supported over 3,500 individuals and adapted their ways of working in the midst of a pandemic.
The Links Worker Programme is now based in 34 GP practices across Glasgow’s most socio-economically deprived communities. The Community Links Practitioners (CLPs) based in each practice work together with patients from the practice list population to identify approaches for overcoming the challenges they face and improving wellbeing. CLPs work directly with people experiencing disadvantage in a way that works for them, often they will work with several members of the same family simultaneously and they are equipped to address whatever it is that people bring to share, and able to work collaboratively with other members of the multidisciplinary team to coordinate complex cases. They build and nurture relationships with the range of community assets that can support people to live well and strengthen the connections between community resources and primary care. They also instigate and help set up new community responses to unmet need where necessary. CLPs reached thousands of people across Glasgow during the lockdown stage of the pandemic – offering emotional and practical support, much of it directed to the shielding group. This support has been described as invaluable and supported people to keep well in their own homes.
At the start of the pandemic all our team moved to home working which was a new experience for them as they are used to being out and about, linking in with individuals and communities, building connections and having a base in their GP practice. Telephone support became the new norm for many in the first few months but as time progressed most of the team were able to move back into their practice, offer walk and talk meetings, restart walking groups and forge ahead with existing but also new connections being made.
During the lockdown period the Links Worker Programme was in contact with 3,500 people across Glasgow, supporting them in numerous different ways. Links workers have been on hand to support GP practices to contact people on the practice shielding list. In many cases this has involved speaking to them to explain the guidance letter from the Chief Medical Officer and answering any questions or concerns they might have. These conversations have often led to local arrangements being made for easier food and prescriptions access where this was required and the arrangement of vital support such as telephone befriending and counselling.
In their report on primary care during COVID-19, Deep End GPs noted that the Link Worker role have been “invaluable” in contacting vulnerable people, meeting their needs and making connections with community resources for health. Link Workers were best placed to connect with community organisations that have quickly adapted to offer support with food and prescription delivery, and activities to counter isolation and mental health problems during lockdown. This has, in some cases, proved life saving to people who were confined to their houses for months at a time and is a perfect example of how health and social support can come together to achieve for the people of Scotland.
“Just as I was starting to get things in place, coronavirus hit. It freaked me out at first. I went from getting out and about to nothing for weeks. Phone calls from my CLP since, have been vital in getting me through this.” – Programme Participant
“My CLP calls too. It’s then I can talk about feelings, worries, despair. I always feel better afterwards. She gives great advice, but in a way to help me make my own choices.” – Programme Participant
“I wouldn’t be here today otherwise. My GP practice has thrived since she came. They do things so differently now.” – Programme Participant
“She helped with my mental health problems, made me feel valued, that life was worth living. I became the person I wanted to be able to stand up for myself. I regained confidence.” – Programme Participant
“It’s impossible to fully quantify the ripple effect across communities of a prevented suicide, and this programme has obviously prevented more than a few. But we should recognise that in itself.” – GP in participating practice.
Reports of other ALLIANCE programme activities during 2020 can be found in our News section.