Improving Access to Health Justice in Suffolk: an exciting new partnership between legal advice and health care providers

  • According to research undertaken by Citizen’s Advice, 19% of GP time is spent on non-clinical problems, costing the NHS almost £400 million a year.
  • Patient bringing their worries about employment, housing, access to welfare benefits and relationship issues have a serious impact on health & wellbeing but are reducing time available to focus on medical issues in GP appointments.
  • When these problems stay unresolved they have further impact on peoples’ mental health which increases demand for mental health services.

Suffolk Health Justice Partnership (SHJP) is proud to launch its first report on the role of legal advice in improving health and wellbeing in Suffolk: ‘Improving Access to Health Justice in Suffolk’.

The SHJP was set up by Suffolk Law Centre and Citizens Advice Ipswich and aims to brings together professionals from the legal, advice and health sectors.

With funding from The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), SHJP commissioned research to explore the impact of social prescribing in healthcare settings in Suffolk. Social prescribing is a model being trialled across GP surgeries around the country which enables GPs to directly refer patients to a range of services or activities which may improve their health and wellbeing. The model can be particularly effective for those experiencing long-term mental health problems and vulnerable groups. Research by Citizens Advice nationally has found that 8 out of 10 GPs felt they didn’t have enough time to focus on clinical care because of the additional issues that many patients were bringing to appointments, such as needing help with debt or benefits.

The SHJP recognise the benefits that social prescribing can bring for patients and health services but are concerned that the most common link worker model does not provide more specialist advice that many vulnerable people need. Steve Allman, an independent consultant and researcher with an extensive background in the health and social care sector was commissioned to carry out this research.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Ipswich said, “This report is an important part of the jigsaw that is being built to improve access to health justice and appropriate advice in appropriate settings across the county.  By working together, I know that the advice, legal and health sectors can transform the lives of people living in Suffolk.”

Audrey Ludwig, Director of Suffolk Law Centre said, “We are pleased to collaborate with Citizens Advice to embed social welfare law into health settings. This frees up medical practitioner’s time because evidence shows early advice brings improvement in health and well-being. We now need to work to make the scheme countywide and sustainable and also to recognise the need for specialist legal advice and casework.”

Improving Access to Health Justice in Suffolk was launched on Friday 28th June at Ashtons Legal Solicitors, Ipswich. Click here to read full report >> Improving Access to Health Justice in Access