“We are a community space where people bring complex lives”: Poverty Proofing© Cruddas Park Surgery

“We’re a practice working at the deep end, looking after communities with significant deprivation”, shares Dr Guy Pilkington, Partner at Cruddas Park Surgery. “It’s a real issue. Day to day, patients are presenting with challenges connected to their income, housing or employment. It’s not always explicit, but these factors play a major part in their health.” 

Cruddas Park is situated in Elswick, which ranks in the top 1% of areas in the UK for deprivation, and was the first General Practice to take part in the Poverty Proofing© Health Settings. Guy was motivated to undergo the process because he “wanted to be a practice recognising these affects”, adding “we know our community. We were already ‘poverty minded’ but it was a good opportunity for the broader team to reflect and identify new areas for improvement.”  

“People engaged very positively. We sat together as team. It offered a way to validate some of the great things the staff were doing and a chance to sit together as a team, to be open.” 

The impact has been thoughtful and incremental, as the Cruddas Park team began sharing the report with leadership and partners, then developed a plan to work through recommendations identified through the Poverty Proofing process. “We’ve introduced more consistency into how staff approach charging for support letters, changed our advertising, increased signposting to services such as food bank vouchers and now fund access to welfare right support.” 

Guy shares the most thought-provoking consideration to emerge from the process was how the community is supported and encouraged to participate in the surgery.  

“We have a statutory participation group that provide insights, which we wanted to reinvigorate. Poverty Proofing has played an important role in encouraging our thinking about the group, for example we are doing more targeted recruitment in the hope of gaining representation from more diverse voices. The group will now be driving the wellbeing function of the surgery and we have a plan in place to gain charity status for them, giving them the opportunity to access funding to realise their ideas.” 

Guy is driven by a vision of the role a General Practice can play for communities and therefore in addressing social inequalities.  

“We need a power dynamic shift. General Practices are important neighbourhood institutions. We are a gateway to NHS services and medicine, as is expected, but we are also a community space where people bring complex lives and we have an important role to play in encouraging engagement with other community assets.”