Intended for healthcare professionals


Linkworkers in primary care

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 06 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1215

An untapped resource

  1. Stephen Gillam, director, primary care programme,
  2. Ros Levenson, visiting fellow
  1. King's Fund, London WC1M 0AN

    Growing awareness of the particular needs of health service users from minority ethnic communities over the past 20 years has resulted in various linkworker schemes across Britain, but their development has been patchy. Linkworkers provide a cultural bridge between doctors and patients in areas with ethnic minority populations. The continuing debate about skill mix in general practice, together with the responsibility on primary care groups to commission services for minority populations, has intensified interest in extending their roles. What do we know about linkworkers and how effective they are?

    An immediate challenge is the diversity of labels used—33 different terms in one review.1 The role has encompassed interpreting, advocacy, health education, and health promotion. For many health professionals the need for help with interpreting is paramount—since mutual incomprehension on account of language renders all other considerations secondary.2 The NHS certainly needs to extend …

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