top of page

Paul Sweeney: 'Removing link workers will only deepen inequalities'

UNCERTAINTY and cuts to community health services in Glasgow threaten the most vulnerable.

Glasgow’s community link workers are a lifeline for many people across the city. Based out of GP practices, link workers support people with a variety of concerns such as housing, isolation and welfare support.

They provide essential non-clinical advice to some of the most vulnerable people in our community, freeing up much needed GP capacity. Link workers are also key to reducing health inequalities, providing preventative support with social issues that could further down the line become a physical health issue.

Operating in areas of Glasgow with higher levels of social deprivation, link workers are on hand to prescribe food and fuel vouchers for people going through financial hardship. While the nation is in the grips of a severe cost-of-living crisis, these key workers could not be more vital.

Given all that, you would think that their value would be obvious to the health board, the council and the Government, yet incredibly, their jobs are now on the line.

Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) says budget cuts from the Scottish Government will mean the current 70 full-time link worker posts could be cut to just 42 from next April, prompting link workers to picket their most recent HSCP meeting along with their trade union, GMB.

Cutting this workforce will be felt most acutely in the most deprived communities in Glasgow and will pile more pressure on the GP surgeries across the city, GP surgeries that have no headroom and are already overstretched. This is simply unacceptable.

Health secretary Michael Matheson just last week suggested that he might be willing to cough up an extra £700,000 to avoid cuts, but this ambiguity helps no one. Link workers faced this same ambiguity last year and are now dealing with more uncertainty for the coming year, with people left worrying if they will have a job in a few months.

It’s the latest symptom of the short-term funding and planning cycle we have in Scotland, and years of council budget cuts to Glasgow.

Unison Scotland is also working alongside other health service unions to stop even more cuts to a further 63 frontline community healthcare posts in health visiting, alcohol and drug recovery services and older people’s services.

A strong community healthcare workforce is central to tackling the mental health, addiction and homelessness crises that affect Glaswegians. It must be well funded and not be viewed as an afterthought.

The NHS is already at breaking point. New figures published by Labour at the weekend showed scandalous waiting times with more than 1500 Scots waiting for more than three years on NHS waiting lists.

On top of this, mental health related delayed discharge has risen over the last five years. In 2019, the number of delayed discharges in Glasgow was 847 and in 2022 the number had jumped to 1057.

With such shocking numbers of people waiting excruciating amounts of time to be seen and to be discharged back into the community, cutting these key community health workers is a step in the wrong direction and risks worsening the crisis in health and social care – and will only deepen the health inequalities that have plagued our city for too long.

You can read my column on the Glasgow Times website here: Paul Sweeney: 'Removing link workers will only deepen inequalities' | Glasgow Times


bottom of page