Almost 2,500 residents across Aberdeen have been supported by an innovative new scheme to deal with non-medical issues.
Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) launched the link practitioner programme in September 2018.
All the city’s 29 GP practices have had a link practitioner assigned to them.
The scheme, which saw 2,482 referrals and is regarded as the biggest in Scotland, signposts patients at GP surgeries to services they may find beneficial and helps them to gain the support which could get their lives back on track.
New data from September 1 2018 to November 30 2019 shows the highest proportion of patients were referred for mental health reasons, with a total of 657 referrals (26%) citing it as their primary referral reason.
This was followed by 329 patients (13%) who felt isolated and 261 (11%) who wanted advice on benefits.
Dr Alasdair Jamieson, lead GP at Cove and Kincorth Medical Practice, credits the scheme for delivering “significant improvements” in both the quality and depth of support offered.
He added: “They can give a bit more time than we as GPs can give.
“Some of the patients are very vulnerable, perhaps with confidence issues, who might struggle to take the first steps into their support.
“The link practitioner will explore what might help and maybe hold hands a little bit.”
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Although the scheme might not work for everyone, Dr Jamieson claims it has helped “many people” to “turn their lives around”.
He added: “It’s given them the support to start to get back on their feet.”
A newly released report into the scheme has claimed the service appears to contribute to reducing the number of GP contacts and has the “potential” to alleviate pressures on primary care.
Support offered during the scheme ranged from those who required a single telephone call or appointment, to those requiring more extensive support including multiple face-to-face appointments, home visits and support to attend community groups.
Senior link practitioner Jenny Wooley is currently working at Marywell Health Centre but has been based at sites across Aberdeen City.
She said: “My role as a practitioner means I deliver support to people who present at the GP with a wide variety of issues, including social difficulties and financial problems, and point them in the right direction of groups or organisations that can help.
“Anyone who presents at a health centre with challenges beyond their health get referred to us and we work either short-term or long-term with them to make sure they get the right support.
“Since we started in September 2018, we have had almost 2,500 referrals and supported GP practices across the city.
“We have improved life quality, decreased social isolation and increased community connectivity so far in Aberdeen.
“I hope we continue to improve this as well as provide connected and improved choices over the next few years and also decrease GP appointment waiting times.”