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Successful Free Advice Sessions Within GP Surgeries Set To Continue And Expand

Published on: 12 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2016

A pilot scheme that offers people free advice services at a number of local Guildford GP surgeries has been a great success, and will now continue and be expanded.

Set up by Guildford Advice Services (itself a project to promote collaboration between advice agencies in the borough) the nine-month pilot was launched in February 2015. Advisors from Guildford Citizens Advice have been offering their services at four Guildford GP surgeries.

Sally Taylorson (left), who leads the scheme, with Amanda Creese, the advisor at the advice sessions in the GP surgeries.

Sally Taylorson (left), who leads the scheme, with Amanda Creese, the advisor at the advice sessions in the GP surgeries.

The pilot scheme has been seen by more than 226 clients with 427 appointments, proving its viability.

Now, with funding for a further year from the Guildford & Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group and Guildford Borough Council, there will be sessions at the following GP surgeries:

Mondays: alternate weeks at Merrow Park Surgery (clients do not need to be registered as patients at the surgery), and The Villages Medical Centre in Send (clients need to be registered as patients at the surgery).

Tuesdays: The Oaks Surgery, Park Barn (clients have to be registered as patients to the Guildown Group’s practice).

Wednesdays: Wonersh Surgery (clients do not need to be registered with the surgery).

Thursdays: Stoughton Road, Bellfields (clients have to be registered as patients to the Guildown Group’s practice).

All sessions are free and are with trained personnel from Guildford Citizens Advice. They are held between 1.30pm and 4.30pm on the days specified (1pm to 4pm at The Villages Medical Centre). There are four 45-minute slots available each afternoon (four 30-minute appointments at The Villages Medical Centre), booked by reception staff at each surgery.

Call the surgeries direct to make an appointment.

Citizens Advice new logoThe team running the pilot scheme said they are proud to share their achievements so far.

They said that the scheme has improved access to people seeking advice (98% said it was easy to access); it has been an effective response to un-met needs (60% hadn’t been to Citizens Advice before); and at least 55% of clients are from Guildford’s most deprived areas where social determinants of health can impact.

Most clients were referred to the service by their GP practice staff or had picked up a leaflet at the surgery. 39% were disabled or had long-term health problems – the others would have had health problems as they were at their GP surgery. Many of the clients who returned a survey (92) said they had been stressed or upset and had felt better after having had advice.

The scheme has identified significant potential financial benefits for clients (some £374,000 overall). Potential average annualised value, dependent on welfare benefit, has been from £47 to £3,633 for the individual client concerned.

During the pilot scheme the service was accessed by people ages between 18 to 95 years, with 60% over the age of 50.

It dealt with a wide range of matters (664 issues) with a ratio of 2.9 issues per enquiry. The main enquiry areas have been about welfare benefits.

There were high levels of satisfaction among surgery staff and it is valued by GPs. All clients said they would be likely to recommend it to friends and family.

The pilot has shown that, based on a £35,000 investment – funded by the Big Lottery, Guildford Poyle Charities and Guildford Citizens Advice – and using the potential outcomes identified, for every £1 invested there is the potential of a £10.69 return for the individual and a £8.54 return of public value. There is no cost for government with a £1.48 return for every £1 invested.

The aim is to continue and develop the service more widely. Sally Taylorson, who led the pilot scheme and has been working on the next stage, is pleased delighted that the scheme will also be operating in other areas. She said: “We are excited not only that we are introducing in to a fairly diverse setting such as Send, but we will also be very interested in monitoring the outcomes in a more rural location such as Wonersh.”

Amanda Creese is the advisor at the sessions. She added: “I am seeing issues and problems that are arising with people on a low wage and in particular helping clients applying for disability benefits. There are those who, under the new Personal Independence Payment system, fear losing payments for a car or mobility scooter, therefore losing their independence. I support people and help them with their applications to get in monetary terms what they deserve.”

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