Tackling the root causes of poor health

Tackling the root causes of poor health

Any GP will tell you that that a huge proportion of the patients seen each day in primary care have problems that are impacting on physical and mental health, but that a GP cannot solve.
Cambridge and District CAB interview

These include debt, poor housing, unemployment and relationship breakdown. With the best of intentions, in a typical ten minute consultation, there is frustratingly little impact that a GP can have on these personal challenges. 

With increasing pressure on primary care, prevention of ill health has risen rapidly up the agenda and clinicians recognise that a holistic approach to these problems can have a very positive impact on all aspects of health. This is good for patients, makes GPs’ workload more manageable and saves the NHS money.

That is the background to an innovative two-year GP outreach project led by the Cambridge & District Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and funded by the Evelyn Trust.

Rachel Talbot, CEO of the Cambridge CAB, explains how the project works:

“We realised that if we offer people help and advice at local GP surgeries, we could support them alongside their GP to tackle directly some of the causes of their ill health, whether that’s anxiety over debt, for example, or illness caused by smoking. Our experienced volunteers offer advice on a wide range of issues, helping people to piece together the support they need in any aspect of their lives and giving them the confidence to seek help.”

The GP outreach service is offering advice at three Cambridge GP surgeries covering Arbury, Kings Hedges and Abbey, plus on the south side of the city at Trumpington.

“Originally we planned to concentrate our work on the communities around Arbury that have historically seen higher levels of disadvantage than other parts of Cambridge. Unfortunately, some of these issues have recently been recognised in Trumpington because of the large amount of social housing that has been developed there in recent years,” adds Rachel.

Analysis of the project to date shows that the problems addressed are around housing, debt, finances and relationships. The highest level of enquiries currently, however, (up to 63 per cent at Trumpington) are about benefits and tax credits. Cambridge CAB recognises that this is due to the complex changes to the benefits system since December 2016.

“We have been helping many people with problems caused by capped benefits, plus advising on the changes to Personal Independence Payments and working closely with both patients and GPs on the appeals processes. This is very resource-intensive, but the close relationships we’ve developed with health professionals through the outreach project are now helping us to make a big difference in individual cases.”

To find out more about the great work of Cambridge and District CAB, visit https://www.cambridgecab.org.uk/

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