Half of healthcare professionals report seeing an increase in the number of patients with money-related health issues, but 88% feel ill-equipped to have financial conversations, research finds as a new toolkit is launched to help.
Three-quarters (76%) of healthcare professionals believe that supporting patients with money issues earlier may prevent health problems further down the road, the research shows.
But nine out of 10 hold back from financial wellbeing conversations for a variety of reasons including ‘feeling it’s not their place’ (40%), ‘fear of causing embarrassment’ (34%) and ‘worrying that they won’t have the answers’ (20%).
The research comes from the Personalised Care Institute (PCI), which was set up by NHS England in 2020, and the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) which is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions to support money guidance and debt advice. In response, the two organisations have created a toolkit to support healthcare professionals manage the issue.
The Money Talk Toolkit, which is free, aims to equip primary care professionals with the personalised care conversation skills they need to help patients who are struggling. And it provides information and resources so they know where to signpost patients, if necessary.
It is designed for all professionals who are supporting people to address wider determinants of health, many of whom are in general practice. This includes social prescribing link workers, health and wellbeing coaches and GPs.
Dr Sam Finnikin, a GP in Sutton Coldfield and a National Clinical Specialist Advisor in Personalised Care for NHS England, said he had noticed a rise in the number of patients presenting with conditions potentially caused or exacerbated by money worries.
‘It is, unfortunately, increasingly common that people come and see me whose health is being badly affected by their difficult financial situation. As a doctor, it is frustrating that the traditional approaches we have don’t adequately address the problems our patients face,’ he said.
Dr Finnikin, who is also chair of the PCI, added that the toolkit was a welcome resource to help him guide his patients ‘and hopefully improve their financial situation, health and wellbeing’.
Sarah Murphy, Health and Social Care Lead at MaPS, said that financial struggles could have a severe knock-on effect on patients’ health.
‘They may struggle to attend medical appointments or pay for prescriptions, while some can end up living in damp or otherwise unsuitable conditions, all of which can have long-term consequences for their wellbeing. It can also affect their mental health, trapping people in a vicious cycle where money and health problems both continue to spiral,’ she said.
The toolkit is based on the recognition that health needs can arise from circumstances beyond purely medical.
It offers a collection of free training and resources on how to begin the conversation, what information to provide and how to signpost patients to effective support.
The PCI is backed by NHS England and supported by 40+ key health organisations, including royal colleges, professional associations and patient groups. And MaPS is an arms-length body, sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, which offers free, impartial help and guidance on money and pensions via www.moneyhelper.org.uk.
The survey was conducted in April among 500 healthcare professionals.
Practices can access the Money Talk Toolkit here.