A Role with Links

Written by: Phil Donnelly, Community Links Practitioner, the ALLIANCE
Illustration opeople at a desk discussing National Links Worker Programme

On the eve of going into practice, Phil looks ahead to his new role as a Community Link Practitioner with the ALLIANCE.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be familiar with the apprehension you can face when starting in a new job. New colleagues, boss, responsibilities, tasks.

The role of Community Links Practitioner (CLP) has a few aspects particular to it that may bear additional consideration.

The National Links Worker Programme is a Scottish Government funded programme which supports people to live well in their community. As a CLP, I become a full member of a GP practice team, working with individuals to identify and overcome the issues that are compromising their wellbeing. I also hope to support the existing practice team to adopt a links approach, and to develop relationships with resources within the community.

After a successful pilot, the scheme has recently been expanded to 15 Practitioners working in Glasgow and I’m pleased and excited to have been given one of the positions.

I’m writing this blog on the eve of my first full day within my GP practice, in Ibrox.

But, alongside of the other new recruits, having had access to a 2-week induction I’m now not as apprehensive as I might have been.

We spent our first week meeting each other, familiarising ourselves with ALLIANCE policy, and participating in many presentations from community assets such as Football Fans in Training, Migrant Help UK, and Drink Wise Age Well.

Although intense, it felt like we’d mined a rich seam of resources relevant to the role of CLP that we may later signpost programme participants to.

Importantly however, the other stream of our induction meant us having access to learning from the initial pilot period and being able to spend time with all 7 of the existing Community Links Practitioners.

Through presentations such as ‘A Day in the Life of a CLP’, and informal conversations, we got a much more full picture of what to expect once we ourselves are in practice.

Also, it was clear to us the ethos being promoted by the Manager, Director and those who’ve helped design the programme. We are to be ourselves, we are trusted; we are in these posts due to values displayed and for believing in the strength of the links approach. (And that we’re supported.)

Indeed, during the interview process we were given the opportunity to talk with a previous programme participant, allowing us to see how they’d been affected by having access to a Links Practitioner. I found this gave me a sense of the meaningfulness and potential scale that just such an intervention can have.

There’s a buddy system in place, so if I’m stuck or overwhelmed/bewildered, I simply need to pick up the phone!

But one thing on my mind during induction was – once I’m in post at my GP practice, how will I apply this learning; what do I need to do first to enable me to adopt this type of thinking/links approach? And, since I’ve not come from a medical background, and don’t know the processes, systems, and terminology used within a GP practice, will it be difficult to understand the particular strains, or pressures, faced by primary care staff?

To that end, vitally, we were introduced to ‘GP Land’ through a practical, helpful presentation from Dr Peter Cawston, a GP who helped design the Links Worker Programme.

We learned just how a GP practice is structured (the changes in focus over decades; how many departments feed into and converge upon the site) and the realities of interactions between and pressures upon the staff. Along with input from the existing Links Practitioners, this answered a lot of questions (for me, at least!) and had the effect of grounding me again and pulling me back to what will be required of me in my first few weeks of practice.

It was a lot to take in. And another difficulty is the awareness that we’ve only scratched the surface of the multitude of relevant resources out there, which we can tap for the benefit of those accessing the Links Practitioner service. There’ll be successes and failures in the extent to which we can do that, to engage with assets and turn them to the use of participants.

But the overriding message from the pilot, Manager, Director, and existing Practitioners is that it can be done, it has been done; it can be what’s needed.

So, on behalf of my fellow new ‘Linksters’, thanks to everyone involved in the induction.

I feel prepared, trusted, supported, and am eager to begin making links.