Essential support staff in doctors’ surgeries in Scotland’s poorest postcodes must be protected as new figures expose the escalating toll of poverty on Scots’ health, according to GMB Scotland.
The union urged the First Minister to intervene as GPs in the most deprived areas of Glasgow voiced concern at the threatened loss of community links practitioners (CLPs).
At-risk staff protested outside a meeting of the Integration Joint Board, which shapes community health and social care services, in the city centre on Wednesday as official figures reveal life expectancy in Glasgow’s most deprived neighbourhoods remains the lowest in Scotland.
GMB Scotland, which represents the workers, has already written to the First Minister, warning the cuts in so-called deep end surgeries, treating patients in the city’s most deprived communities, undermines his commitment to easing the impact of poverty.
Rory Steel, GMB Scotland policy and external affairs officer, said: “Sadly, the latest figures only confirm the terrible toll of poverty on the health of those living in our biggest city.
“Tragically, we already know how enduring health inequalities mean Scots are condemned to far shorter lives simply because of where they live.
“That is why the CLPs were enlisted and it beggars belief that such essential staff are at risk when their valued, essential work has never been needed more.”
The National Records of Scotland revealed on Tuesday that life expectancy of Scots has dropped for the third year in a row with Glaswegians living the shortest lives in the country.
The GPs, GMB Scotland, and city politicians from all parties at Holyrood have spoken in support of the staff offering patients life-changing help and advice on non-medical issues such as benefits, debt, housing, abuse, bereavement and loneliness.
Deborah Hamilton, one of the city’s CLPs, who works for the Health and Social Care Alliance and We Are With You, told the rally in Albion Street: “If the Scottish Government is serious about easing the impact of poverty, it needs to get serious about saving these jobs.”
Glasgow City Council has also backed the campaign to save one in three CLPs under threat because of £1.3m spending cuts.
Councillor Lana Reid-McConnell, who represents the Greens, hailed the work done by the CLPs and warned it makes no sense to cut what is widely-seen as a successful service.
She said: “They are a vital non-medical, social support in GP practices and their work in tackling isolation as well as emotional and financial hardship is a key preventative service that has been supported and expanded due to its success.”
She said the withdrawal of Scottish Government support and the reduction of the service by a third could only further risk the health of those living in Deep End communities.
At a meeting two weeks ago, the council agreed to the amendment calling on ministers to secure long-term funding for the Community Links programme and, as a priority, sign-off on the cash needed to maintain current staffing levels.
It will now ask for a meeting with ministers, Glasgow City Health Social Care Partnership, GMB Scotland and Deep End GPs to help find a way forward.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been contacted for comment.
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country