A trade union has written to Michael Matheson to demand he stops cuts to jobs providing help to people living in some of Scotland’s poorest areas.

Rory Steel, policy officer at the GMB, is urging the health secretary to intervene in the plan which he said would have a "devastating" impact on hard hit communities.

His letter follows an appeal by public sector union Unison last month after NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde announced that 62 community health jobs including roles supporting people affected by drug and alcohol abuse would be cut.

Unison warned the health secretary that the cuts "make no sense when Scotland has the worst drug death tragedies in Europe".

Now the GMB has raised concerns over a reduction from 60 to 42 community link practitioners (CLPs), specialist health staff based in GP surgeries in socially and economically disadvantaged areas of Glasgow. 

READ MORE: SNP minister told to halt community health cuts amid drug deaths fears

The union said the jobs cuts plan has been put forward by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on behalf of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership in a new contract for CLPs.

The link between poverty and poor health has long been established by researchers.
A major review published earlier this year by the Health Foundation shows that the health of Scots living in the most deprived areas is worse than those in better off communities. It found that in 2019 those in the least deprived areas enjoyed 24 years of good health than those in the most deprived.

"These cuts will be devastating to communities and workers alike," Steel told Matheson.

"CLPs are embedded in GP practices with the aim of providing vital person-centred advocacy, advice and support services across a variety of issues to the most deprived communities in Glasgow – specifically those in the 15% most deprived practice populations."

He added: "When the lowest earners in our city are bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis, these cuts will remove a vital and effective resource on which they can rely. 

"There can be no progress on Glasgow’s health inequalities without progress on the many socioeconomic issues that cause it.

"CLPs are a crucial part of a long-term strategy that aims to tackle these issues by complementing the work of GPs in communities. 

"When our frontline healthcare services are under pressure, any steps that can be taken to provide relief to them and address socio-economic inequalities should be taken. 

"It is not only service users who will be impacted by this loss in service, it will also be the CLPs themselves. 18 of which will be made redundant – not including managers.

"They now face redundancy in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis. Currently, most CLPs cover one GP practice and proactively embed themselves in a local community working with local groups to provide the best service for those who need assistance.

"Under the new proposals, CLPs will be expected to cover two or more practices therefore taking on at least double the workload."

He said the heavier workload falling on remaining CLPs would lead to a reduction in the standard of service provided and less support given to those in need.

"These [posts] must be protected," he said.

"In the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, the SNP ran on the manifesto of expanding links workers numbers. It’s disappointing that it looks like not only is this commitment being abandoned, but that posts are being significantly reduced. The new tender must be rescinded and reissued with all current posts maintained."

He continued: "Our members are acutely aware of the strain on public finances, however these roles are vital to the city of Glasgow. Their impact in improving peoples’ lives cannot be overstated. I therefore write to ask that the Scottish Government provides the additional funding required to maintain CLP levels in Glasgow."
A spokesman for Glasgow health and social care partnership said last month: “While difficult funding decisions have had to be made as a result of the challenging funding conditions we are all facing, the reality is that this decision will not impact front-line services as many of these posts had not been filled for some time.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said then: “Decisions on how best to deliver services to local communities are ultimately for integration authorities and locally elected representatives to make. However, we expect that whenever changes take place, services continue to provide the necessary support needed.”