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“Advice services have been identified as being used most frequently by the poorest individuals in communities. At a time when local authority budgets are reducing and demand for services is rising, new methods of providing and sustaining critical services that reduce inequalities need to be considered. Co-locating advice workers in medical practices and allowing advisors consensual access to the medical records of individuals is an example of such an approach. The multiple benefits of delivering advice services in this way are identified, measured and valued in this analysis.

The Scottish Government, NHS and Local Government are committed to reducing health inequalities and improving health. NHS Health Scotland state that health inequalities are unfair and avoidable differences in health across social groups and between different population groups. The health inequalities that exist between affluent and deprived areas because of poverty and deprivation have a major impact on health and life expectancy. Personal factors between groups of people based on gender, disability and ethnicity also contribute to health inequalities. Evidence suggests that the UK Government’s Welfare Reform programme is likely to have a negative impact on some working age people, including those with disabilities, individuals with long term health conditions (including mental health) and also lone parents and women. Many of the individuals likely to be affected are already members of those groups that are most likely to experience health inequalities.

One measure to tackle health inequalities and mitigate the impact of welfare reform is the co-location of advisors in GP practices. Across Scotland, there has been a gradual increase in the number of advisors being co-located in GP practices in response to the impact of socio-economic issues on people’s health, with particular developments in Edinburgh and Dundee. This approach is included in the Scottish Government’s NHS Outcome Focussed Plan to mitigate the impact of welfare reform on health and health services and to reduce health inequalities.”

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