Voluntary Health Scotland (VHS) is pleased to announce the publication of its report, Essential Connections, which explores the range and scope of community link worker programmes across Scotland. The report is the culmination of eight months of research by the Scottish Community Link Worker Network’s Policy and Research Officer, Findlay Smith. His research included a survey of 60 community link workers (CLWs) working in GP practices and interviews with 18 community link worker programme leads and managers from across Scotland.
The aim of the research, which was carried out between January and August of this year, was to capture and understand more about the range of CLWs in GP practices across Scotland since the Scottish Government committed to recruiting at least 250 CLWs to work in GP practices in 2016. Up until now relatively little has been known about how these programmes were designed and implemented and the report helps to capture some of this as well as the perspectives of practitioners working within these programmes.
The report looks in more depth at the range of approaches applied to the design, structure and delivery of community link worker programmes across Scotland. It also explores the variation in the way programmes monitor and evaluate their impact and the challenges of identifying tangible outcomes. The report also captures research participants’ thoughts on the future design and delivery of the programmes in Scotland, including the need to recognise link working as a profession and a more coherent and effective approach to demonstrating the collective and national impact of the programme.
The report also highlights several issues that were identified as important by research participants to the future of the community link worker programme in Scotland including the position of link working in comparison to other elements of primary care modernisation. The report also references the importance of embedding CLWs in GP practices and the value of exploring a framework to provide a structure for link working in Scotland.
As one research participant commented:
‘If we want long-term commitment, it needs to be written into some of the key policy drivers. But there is also something about where is sits in relation to the other parts of the MoU.’
The report’s publication is timely, particularly given the recent focus on the future of Glasgow City’s community link worker programme which has generated more discussion about the long-term sustainability of community link worker programmes in Scotland. The Scottish Government has committed to a review of the CLW programme in the new year. VHS and the Scottish Community Link Worker Network hope that this report and its findings will support that process and help guide strategic decisions in relation to the ongoing development and sustainability of the programme.
For more information about the report or the Scottish Community Link Worker Network, please contact Roisin Hurst Project Manager – Scottish Community Link Worker Network.