A visit by Health Secretary Michael Matheson to a Glasgow GP surgery was cancelled last night amid the ongoing row over his iPad expenses.

It is understood Mr Matheson was due to meet doctors at Whitevale surgery in Dennistoun this morning to discuss controversial cuts to link worker funding.

The Herald: Whitevale surgery in Dennistoun: Image Colin Mearns, NewsquestWhitevale surgery in Dennistoun: Image Colin Mearns, Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

The Scottish Government announced today that an additional £3.6million is being committed over the next three years to safeguard jobs and maintain the service.

Mr Matheson is set to make a personal statement to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday as questions remain over his £11,000 data roaming bill.

There has been a fierce backlash since planned cuts to community link workers were outlined by Glasgow's Health and Social Care Partnership (GHSCP) in August, with GPs and charities warning of a "catastrophic" impact on the city's poorest residents.

The GHSCP said they would be forced to slash the number of full-time link worker posts from 70 to 42 from April next year because the Scottish Government was discontinuing a £1.35 million funding pot which had been used to pay for the scheme.

READ MORE: Cuts to Glasgow community link workers 'catastrophic' for patients, GPs warn

Community links workers are employed by the HSCP but embedded in Glasgow's Deep End GP practices, located in the city's most deprived communities and are represented by the GMB.

They provide dedicated support for non-medical problems affecting patients' health, such as issues with debt, housing, loneliness, food and fuel poverty, and abuse, and are seen as a vital resource for tackling widening health inequalities. 

The row over the cuts took a twist after claims were made that the city's health and care bosses secretly rejected an offer by the Scottish Government to cover half the costs.

Rory Steel, the policy & external relations officer for GMB Scotland, said the trade union had been "reliably informed by the Scottish Government that a formal, written offer was made in September for half of the funding to be provided" - a sum of around £700,000 - "not just for one year, but on a recurring basis – and that this offer was rejected by GCHSCP".

READ MORE: Charities in plea to First Minister to resolve link worker cuts row 

The HSCP said there were "some misunderstandings" in the letter, but a spokeswoman confirmed that it did receive - and respond to - a formal offer from the Scottish Government.

It said it is "only able to agree contracts based on our known income from Scottish Government" and that they have had no guarantee that the £1.35 million they received for CLPs this year will be repeated in 2024/25.

However, it is understood that the Scottish Government considers this "top up" cash and expects the HSCP to continue funding CLPs from a separate pot of money, known as the Primary Care Investment Fund.

Link workers are increasingly embedded in GP practices to bridge the gap between medical needs and the social determinants of health.

These might be problems with debt, housing, food or fuel poverty, benefits, or loneliness. Patients can be referred straight to the CLP in their practice for help, sometimes getting access to hour-long consultations.

Aberdeen is one of the few places in Scotland to have a CLP in every practice, but in other parts of the country – such as Glasgow – they have been prioritised to Deep End practices, which are located in the most deprived areas.