There has been a lot of third sector led activity relating to Link worker initiatives. Voluntary Health Scotland have tried to capture some of this in our recent publication Gold Star Exemplars, which aims to showcase Third sector approaches to Community Link Working across Scotland. Our report is based on the findings of our Scotland wide mapping exercise that involved 60 third sector providers, 15 Third Sector Interfaces and 3 detailed case studies. The report was commissioned by the Scottish Government to help it scope the development of a national programme to recruit 250 Community Link Workers to work in GP surgeries, 40 of whom are to be recruited in 2017.
The findings of the report highlighted the range of definitions and models that the third sector are using for link worker projects and the way in which community services are ideally placed to deliver holistic support for people and alleviate inappropriate demands on primary care. The report also detailed the short term funding of these essential projects and the subsequent underutilisation of some of these third sector projects by GPs.
VHS’s report makes 8 recommendations to the Scottish Government, emphasising the government’s role in providing leadership and support for the third sector as a key partner in the strategic development and delivery of the new programme.
You will have heard about the National Links Worker Programme which is being delivered in partnership between the Health and Social Care Alliance (The ALLIANCE) and General Practitioners at the Deep End. It is a Scottish Government funded programme which aims at researching how the primary care team can mitigate the impact of the social determinants of health. The programme is guaranteed funding until March 2019 and an evaluation of the Programme has recently been published.
Finding from the evaluation shows outcomes for patients including lower anxiety levels and depressive symptoms as well as an increase in self-reported exercise levels. These outcomes were significantly better in those who saw a Community Link Worker twice or more and those who engaged with a community resource they had been linked to.
The Accelerating Ideas programme at the Big Lottery (UK) is interested in funding the establishment of a Social Prescribing Network across the Northern Ireland and Scotland. The aim of the network will be to expand the concept of Social Prescribing, extending is uptake and impact. The Accelerating Ideas programme have commissioned Community Enterprise and SCDC to investigate this network model and what it should look like.
There are also other pockets of activity outside of the third sector taking place that are creating new and innovative models and potentials for partnerships including the third sector. INTERREG VA is a fund administered by the European Union, it has funded NHS24 to deliver the Mpower Project, which will include the development of Community Navigators as part of the project, to work across the UK and Republic of Ireland. The premise for this project is to create a personalised approach to the needs of older people and their carers, by effectively integrating health and care services, citizen empowerment and e-health technologies to support independent living, healthy ageing and social inclusion.
A number of Health and Social Care Partnerships are also funding Community Connector projects such as Community Connectors East Ayrshire which is a managed by Council of Voluntary Organisations (East Ayrshire) Ltd.
There is an array of interesting activity happening around Community Link Working and it is now up to the Scottish Government to decide how it will develop the 250 community Link Worker posts.