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Link workers may bridge the health inequality gap

29 May 2014

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Link workers are being piloted in seven GP surgeries across Scotland’s most impoverished communities to deal with patients’ financial and emotional problems.

Throughout the pilot, GPs are able to refer patients to link workers within the community if the problems arise outside the realm of medical treatment.

The role of link workers is to provide support and give advice for patients dealing with issues such as housing debt, social isolation, stress and fuel poverty.

Patients within the deprived areas can be directed by link workers to organisations and activities within the community to help cope with their issues and feel supported.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil said: “The link worker programme is right on the front line of the battle against health inequalities. This is about giving people an extra helping hand to address the problems that are making them feel unwell.

“We know that people who are living in deprived and challenging circumstances are more likely to experience mental health problems, and more likely to use acute and emergency hospital services. By helping them to deal with some of the problems they’re facing, the link workers can give them the chance to live happier lives, with less chance of illness further down the road.”

The pilot programme began in September 2013 and will be extended to May 2018, at which point a decision will be made whether or not to roll the scheme out across Scotland.