Is there a links effect that can help future proof a front line of the NHS?
One of the fundamental aims of our programme is to support the existing primary care team to develop their capacity, as encapsulated by the ‘links approach’. This works in tandem with working with individuals and community resources in trying to mitigate negative impacts from social determinants of health.
And it is on this front that it seems we may recently have found the first evidence of a ‘links effect’.
Analysis of data from an annual survey of all Scottish general practices found that staff involved in the National Links Worker Programme (NLWP) experienced increases in staff satisfaction across themes including; workload, leadership, teamwork, and, most markedly, safety systems and learning. See Figure 1.
Against the backdrop of a challenging national picture and the oft quoted impending ‘GP crisis’ the potential importance of this development should not be underestimated.
GPs and other practice staff report becoming better enabled in looking after their own wellbeing, managing stress and working together more effectively. A beneficial impact on clinical practice has resulted from the culture and behaviour change the programme has instigated, which has included staff engaging with community resources to embark on a wide range of activities including yoga, cycling, mindfulness and tennis.
Experiencing what is available in local communities also means GPs are better equipped in relaying relevant information when linking patients to resources and explaining health benefits that this can bring. This also means GPs themselves feel more empowered.
Dr. Peter Cawston, the programme’s Clinical Lead and GP at Garscadden Burn Medical Practice in Drumchapel said
“People living in less affluent areas experience a greater impact on their health from social issues and have more complex health problems at a younger age. Despite this they are allocated less funding for GP services relative to their health needs. As a result, they have shorter consultation times while their doctors experience greater levels of stress themselves. This is one of the reasons why health inequalities in Scotland are among the highest in Europe. New ways of supporting patients and the people who care for them, such as provided by the Links Worker Programme, are essential if we are to avoid crisis in general practice and provide the level of health care in the community that people with the greatest health needs deserve.”
The new data is presented in Team Wellbeing in General Practice, the most recent of six learning modules published by the programme this year, which can be downloaded here http://links.alliance-scotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Team-Wellbeing-in-General-Practice-Module-Final.pdf
Chris Gourley, Programme Learning and Evaluation Officer