NHSGGC Staff Guidance: Money Worries
Asking and responding to patients’ money and debt worries is a relatively new phenomenon in the NHS. This kind of inquiry is part of Inequalities Sensitive Practice, which is about taking into account each patient’s social circumstances and how they are affecting their health. It also relates to person centred care.
This guidance covers how to enquire and respond to financial issues and the training available to staff. It also provides advice for staff who themselves might be experiencing financial difficulties.
Money worries – why should NHS staff ask?
With the recession and changes to the benefits system, many of our patients are experiencing money difficulties and mounting debts.
This is important to us as, in addition to being a cause of poor health, money worries can also be a barrier to engaging fully with our services.
“I observe this again and again - that I cannot address medical issues as I have to deal with the patients’ agenda first, which is getting money to feed and heat.” GP
If your patients are facing financial difficulties, they should not pay for advice. You can help your patients to use the free, high quality services available across NHSGGC which offer help with:
- Maximising Income
- Debt Advice
Evidence shows that referring patients to these services can result in improved mental health, increased income, debt reduction, increased financial planning and reduced stress.
“I have no more worries about putting the heating on and can afford leisure activities for the children.” Patient
Asking Your Patient
If done sensitively, patients value being asked about money problems and referred to Money Advice Services. It only takes a few minutes to do and can be incorporated easily into patient assessment as part of a person centred approach. Most NHSGGC assessment forms cover money worries.
“Do you have any money or debt worries? Would you like to speak with an advisor to discuss money worries or help you to claim any benefits that you may be entitled to?”
These type of standard questions for introducing the topic of money worries are used in the community setting. Similar questions are used in hospitals, where staff need to establish whether the patients has any immediate work/money related concerns as a result of their health condition.
If you are working with groups of people it is good practice to discuss people's health in the context of their life circumstances. Money and debt worries are a major issue for many people and should always be covered in these discussions.
Referring your patient
All NHSGGC areas have arrangements with Local Authorities / Voluntary Sector to take Money Advice referrals.
Staff should follow up with the patient to see whether attending the Money Advice Service met their needs. All areas are required to provide information on the number and outcomes of referrals to Money Advice Services through the performance process.
The Health Improvement Directory includes a list of Money Advice Services you can refer to and referral forms.
In extreme cases of crisis, most areas have developed food banks or food share services and Money Advice Services can advise on crisis loans and fuel poverty solutions.
Awareness Raising & Training
In NHSGGC, tackling inequalities is a priority. Responding to money and debt worries are part of this.
Most areas provide awareness sessions for staff on money and debt worries, which cover how to support patients and how to refer to Money Advice Services.
Poverty and financial inclusion and employability e-modules are available alongside a range of other e-modules on equalities issues via Staffnet Learning and Education pages. This e module includes information on financial issues.
Contact local Health Improvement Leads for further information.
The ‘Help for You’ leaflet can aid a discussion on money worries with patients. It covers where to get help on money and debt worries, affordable credit and associated services. Staff have found the information on the costs of credit (e.g. credit union loans versus loan shark costs) particularly useful and the leaflet can be useful with patients reluctant to discuss money worries initially as it can be taken away and used later.
If you or your patients are having problems paying fuel bills or are finding it hard to heat your home, you can call Home Energy Scotland (HES) on 0808 808 2282, use this form or go to the website. NHSGGC has a partnership with HES.
The Money Advice Service website offers information and advice on budget planning and improving your finances, including tools and calculators to help you plan ahead.
Support for Staff with Money Worries
In the current economic climate, many staff are experiencing money and debt problems, which can increase personal stress. NHSGGC has a number of resources to support staff.
Money Advice Cards – available from all main sites in a handy credit card size. Includes telephone numbers for help with money and debt management, work-life balance; employee support and staff benefits.
The ‘Help for You’ leaflet can be used for staff experiencing money difficulties and copies can be left in staff informal meeting areas and notice boards.
Staff can also go to NHSGGC's HR Connect for support and advice.
For further reading on Welfare Reform click here