GPs are to prescribe financial advice sessions for patients as part of a pilot scheme to help people with long-term health conditions.
Under the scheme in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, doctors will send patients to see financial support link workers, who will help them claim benefits, obtain grants for essential items, and deal with debts.
The group behind the programme, Impact on Urban Health and the Centre for Responsible Credit, said in a report that there was a “reciprocal relationship” between financial health and multiple long-term health conditions, and that those who shaped healthcare policy should take a “much wider” view of public health.
Kieron Boyle, the group’s chief executive, said: “People’s finances and health are connected: debt, money worries and financial insecurity can have a profound effect on our physical and mental health.
“This is especially the case in ‘cliff edge’ moments such as unexpected bills or delays in income.
“As a result, we’re proud to support the UK’s first model of social prescribing that includes debt advice, bringing together local authorities, housing associations and healthcare providers. We think this approach could spread to cities across the country.”
The scheme, called Financial Shield, will be tested with 2,000 people in Lambeth and Southwark through to September 2022. The pilot will include a cost-benefit analysis to measure outcomes and an independent review to encourage a national roll-out.
GPs in Southwark and Lambeth will identify working-age patients with both long-term health conditions and money worries, and text them to offer support. Doctors surgeries will display posters and leaflets to help them explain the new service to their patients.
Paul Maynard, the MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “In my constituency I have a disproportionately high number of people living in a household with a long-term health condition. Now more than ever we need to tackle the debt crisis and prioritise the wellbeing of the British people.
“This project offers a case study in London which could significantly change the way we treat debt and health across the UK in the long term.”
Sangeeta Leahy, the director of public health for Southwark council, said: “We know that financial problems have a negative impact on people’s health and that someone’s health can affect their financial situation, so the breathing space and other support that Financial Shield provides will be so welcomed and could make all the difference to people’s situation, stress levels and in turn their health and wellbeing.”