Scottish Government
Printable version

GP Link Worker Programme

Extra help for patients in deprived communities.

A new pilot programme that places link workers in GP surgeries is tackling health inequalities in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities.

Health Secretary Alex Neil visited Allander Practice in Glasgow yesterday – one of those taking part in the Link Worker Programme. He met link workers, GPs and patients, and also announced that the pilot will be extended for a further three years, up to 2018.

Under the programme, link workers are based in seven surgeries in low-income communities. It means GPs can refer patients if they have problems which go beyond the scope of medical treatment.

The link worker can then help people to deal with financial, emotional or environmental problems. These might be caused by problems with housing, debt, social isolation, stress or fuel poverty. Link workers can give people advice, or direct them to organisations and activities in the community, enabling them to cope more effectively and feel more supported in their communities.

The scheme will be evaluated, with patient outcomes from the participating practices compared with eight practices outside the scheme. Ministers will then consider whether to roll it out further. 

The Scottish Government is working with the Health and Social Care Alliance to deliver the pilot programme.

Mr Neil said:

“The link worker programme is right on the front line of the battle against health inequalities. This is about giving people an extra helping hand to address the problems that are making them feel unwell.

“We know that people who are living in deprived and challenging circumstances are more likely to experience mental health problems, and more likely to use acute and emergency hospital services. By helping them to deal with some of the problems they’re facing, the link workers can give them the chance to live happier lives, with less chance of illness further down the road.

“I’m delighted to be able to announce extra funding for the programme, that will take it up to 2018. A full evaluation will be carried out, and we will then decide whether or not to extend it to GP practices across the country.”


The link worker programme was initially intended to run from September 2013 to March 2015. The extra funding means it will now run until May 2018, at which point a decision will be taken on whether to extend it, based on the evaluation findings.

Each participating practice will receive around £50,000 per year to pay for one link worker, and for practice development.

Channel website:

Share this article

Latest News from
Scottish Government