Evaluation of the Links Worker Programme in ‘Deep End’ General Practices in Glasgow

Evaluation of the Links Worker Programme Tackling health inequalities has been Scottish a Government priority since 2007. Tackling inequalities involves attempting to tackle some of the social determinants of health problems such as poor access to services and lack of support at community level. The Links Worker Programme is a Scottish Government funded programme which aims to increase access to support for people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

The Links Worker Programme uses a ‘social prescribing’ model (where patients are supported to access non-medical support and resources available in their communities), and a ‘Links Approach’, which engages the entire primary care team in developing the capacity to support people to live well in their community through enabling better access to information, knowledge, skills, relationships and resources.

The Programme is being delivered as a partnership between the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (The Alliance) and General Practitioners (GPs) at the Deep End. An evaluation of the Programme, commissioned by NHS Health Scotland, is being undertaken by the University of Glasgow, Institute of Health and Wellbeing


  • To define the programme theory of change, the core components of the Links Worker Programme being delivered in intervention practices and key differences between intervention and control practices, and the contexts of delivery.
  • To describe and assess the implementation process and the implications for effectiveness.
  • To assess the effectiveness of the Links Worker Programme in intervention practices in achieving the intended outcomes at patient, practice and community levels, compared with non-intervention practices.
  • To draw conclusions about the extent to which the programme has worked as intended, and to identify lessons about sustainability and transferability of the programme


The evaluation has been implemented in two phases. In Phase 1 we have described practice and community characteristics in which the Programme is operating and elucidated the theories of change of the Programme.
In Phase 2 we are undertaking a quasi-experimental outcome evaluation of the Programme with embedded, theory-led, process evaluation. The quasi-experimental design includes comparison of processes and outcomes in 8 intervention practice and 7 comparison practices. Fourteen of these practices applied to take part in the Programme and; 6 were randomly assigned to the intervention and 8 to the comparison group. The remaining intervention practice is the practice of the Programme’s Clinical Lead. The evaluation uses mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to assess the impact of the Programme on a range of short, medium and longer term outcomes at patient and practice levels.

Why the results are important

The evaluation will assess whether the Links Worker Programme supports people to ‘live well’ through strengthening connections between community resources and primary care in deprived areas in Glasgow. This will provide evidence to inform service development and policy decisions about the continuation and extension of the Links Worker programme to other practices serving multiply deprived communities. It will also add to the evidence base to inform future national and local programmes more generally.


Project dates

August 2014 to April 2017


NHS Health Scotland