The vital role of Community Link Workers and the challenges they face due to funding uncertainties.

The conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age are known to be a key driver of our health throughout our life.  Yet, despite having greater health needs evidence tells us that people living in deprived areas have less access to primary care services than people in more affluent areas.  Current evidence shows that there has been too little focus or action on supporting general practice to tackle health inequalities, despite primary care being the front door into health care and services for many people. There is also evidence (in a report published by Dr David Blane, Academic GP from the University of Glasgow) to suggest that the formula for allocating funding to GP Practices does not take sufficiently consider deprivation when calculating funding made available.  

One of Scotland’s main interventions to address this unequal access to primary care services is Community Links Workers. The precarity of funding for these vital roles, demonstrated by the situation in Glasgow City where funding for the programme is being cut by a third has widespread implications for the retention of Link Workers, job satisfaction and motivation, and future planning. Many of the Community Link Worker services are funded through the Primary Care Improvement Fund, which also covers Community Treatment and Assessment Centres and Pharmacotherapy support. There is currently no protected funding for Link Workers despite the ALLIANCE and others having called for this over many years as we worked with Scottish Government to develop and deliver the pilot for the programme back in 2008.

As the First Minister announces his Programme for Government and pledges to continue addressing the causes and consequences of poverty in Scotland, I will be scrutinising the extent to which the commitments for health and social care take into account the inequalities being experienced and start to evidence that there is genuine commitment to address this unfair and unjust differences in health.

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