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Welfare rights advice in primary care: prevalence, processes and specialist provision

Harding, R; Sherr, L; Sherr, A; Moorhead, R; Singh, S; (2003) Welfare rights advice in primary care: prevalence, processes and specialist provision. FAM PRACT , 20 (1) 48 - 53.

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Background. Despite persistent poverty-related health inequalities, few sustained responses have been developed in primary care. Welfare rights provision has been proposed as one potential pathway to addressing health inequalities.Objectives. This study was set up to address the prevalence of welfare rights issues in general practice, and the practitioner response to unmet need.Methods. A postal questionnaire was sent to practitioners in GP surgeries of an inner city health authority with high levels of deprivation. By means of a 'most recent case audit', data on welfare advice needs were collected. Practices with in-house welfare rights provision were compared with those surgeries with no such provision.Results. Questionnaires were returned by 153 practitioners, describing their most recent case with a welfare rights need (mean 10.41 days ago). Of the respondents, 70.6% felt that there was a mental health element to this consultation, 49.8% of problems were described as urgent, and 65.8% of patients requested information or guidance. Those practitioners with specialist advisers in the surgery (n = 81) were significantly more likely to find referring patients to advisers easy, that quality of advice for patients was good, that welfare providers enhanced their ability to practice effectively and that such provision improves the health and well-being of patients. In those surgeries without provision (n = 72), patients were more likely to approach their practitioner for advice. GPs were more likely than nurses and other practising staff to see a case with welfare rights needs. Practitioners were more likely to raise the welfare issues if they had specialist advice in the surgery.Conclusions. A large amount of practitioner consultation time is spent on welfare rights-related issues. Although practitioners are skilled in detecting need, and their practice is enhanced by specialist support, expansion is needed to provide the advice which cannot be met by clinical consultation.

Type: Article
Title: Welfare rights advice in primary care: prevalence, processes and specialist provision
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/123789
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