Improving access to primary care services for those on low income: voluntary advocacy
Nurses in primary care are often the first point of access for those seeking health care, and it is well known that accessing health services can be difficult for some, especially those on a low income. A charity initiative has been developed in a low-income area in England to help such individuals, wherein volunteers help local residents to access local services and support. This study explores the experiences of service users in order to understand their perceptions and feelings about the service, using an instrumental case study method with semi-structured interviews. Qualitative data were collected from six service users and transcribed by the researcher for subsequent thematic analysis. The participants' experiences were characterised by reduced social isolation, reduced emotional distress, improved mobility and transport options, improved confidence and control over life, and effective management of memory issues. Various aspects of advocacy and empowerment were also observed. Further, the coping strategies used by the participants while facing the challenges of social isolation and ageing were highlighted. The findings provide important insight into the support needs of populations on low income, the ways in which they access healthcare and how the volunteer service can best support them.
Nurses working in general practice are often the first point of contact for those seeking primary health services. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (2018) emphasised that nurses' responsibility begins even before this point of contact and that nurses have a duty to act in partnership with those receiving care, helping them to access relevant health and social care. It is well known that gaining access to primary care services can be difficult for certain groups, for example, those living in low socioeconomic areas. This is partly due to the shortage of health professionals in low-income areas, as well as due to difficulties experienced by those who need access to the services (Hutt and Gilmour, 2010; Asaria et al, 2016; Lubenow et al, 2016). It is, therefore, of concern to nurses when their patients encounter difficulties in accessing the services available.
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