Links Project Report:developing the connections between general practices and their communities

The Links Project was established between October 2010 and May 2011. Staff in ten Scottish General Practices explored connections with their communities. Six of the practices were in areas of deprivation in Glasgow and four in different areas of Fife.

Open Discussion

Project specific comment

It was generally agreed that the Links Project had been worthwhile, but there was still much to learn. This included finding out what it is that encourages people to take up support and follow up arrangements for people who had been signposted. Many participants felt the burden of collecting data had been too time consuming.

Role of General Practice

There was discussion about the prospect of a "one stop" general practice and whether signposting was a role for primary care, some GPs were known not to be keen on signposting. However others thought it was appropriate that GPs had community links. Receptionists' and practice nurses' had an important role, however more time was needed, both for consultations and to be part of the community. It was suggested that a way to create time would be to change the Quality Outcomes Framework.

Directories of local resources - leaflets in the bin

Delegates were familiar with the sight of leaflets in the bin, thrown out because they were not appropriate or out of date. There was agreement that online and paper directories of community resources were very useful, but difficult to keep current.

The value of signposting people to local resources

There was discussion about the nature of consultations and the therapeutic value of discussing local support. Being able to inform patients about community groups was viewed as "being a good thing" and could be interpreted as "going the extra mile".

How to get people together

Various ideas emerged about how to make community connections. It was agreed that just one person in the team could make links, and it was noted that Keep Well had been a catalyst for meeting local groups. An annual marketplace type event, which had been successful in Fife, would be easy to arrange.

Third Sector relationship with General Practices

A number of issues were discussed about the interface between local organisations and general practice. It was acknowledged that developing this relationship would represent a change in culture for many practices and would require time to evolve. Governance arrangements would have to be considered, to ensure people signposting were not party to confidential information. It was important to ensure feedback after signposting to know if people attended, stayed the course and benefited from support. It was thought useful for local organisations to learn how best to present their resource to primary care. Also keeping track of services required but not available would be useful.

It was pointed out that signposting is not only a role for primary care. For instance, the role of Community Navigators is being considered by some local planning partnerships as part of Scottish Government's Reshaping Care for Older People. Community Navigators are similar to local area coordinators and are ideally placed to signpost to local resources through, for example, Self Directed Support (where people are awarded an individual budget to ensure they have tailor made support). Community Navigators can help access both statutory (eg district nurses) and third sector support (eg church, Citizens Advice). This role will be ideal in connecting services with other support available to individuals through their own, family and community resources, thereby maximising their independence.


Email: Tim Warren

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