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In March 2024, a second Patient-Public Involvement (PPI) meeting was held to discuss a study on the retention of link workers. In this blog, the study’s lead, Stephanie Tierney, summarises some key points covered at this meeting.

The study

We are conducting a study to explore issues facing link workers that might mean they are thinking about leaving their role or could encourage them to stay in it. We have received responses from 342 link workers to a questionnaire. We are now in the process of interviewing some of these individuals to talk in more detail about factors affecting their thinking about and experiences of their job. As part of data collection, interviewees are asked to take and send to the researcher three photographs, which are discussed at the start of the interview:

  • One of something that illustrates/shows a typical part of their working day.
  • One of something that illustrates/shows something that makes them feel confident or gives them confidence in their role as a link worker.
  • One of something that illustrates/shows an unexpected part of their role or something not in their job description that they do on a regular basis. 

The PPI group and our discussion

This is a group of individuals who were part of an earlier project on the link worker role in primary care. Five people attended the meeting in March 2024. We talked about early data from the questionnaire and interviews. This included showing group members some of the photographs sent by interviewees. These PPI group members were interested in what we presented, which led to discussions on:

  • The need for patients to take a more active role in social prescribing compared to a medical prescription
  • The importance of peer support and supervision for link workers
  • The requirement for link workers to be good problem solvers and prepared to expect the unexpected
  • Link workers being able to draw on skills brought to the role from other jobs and how this might enable them to support patients
  • Confidence in the role can be shaped by past training and occupations 
  • Freedom in the link worker role allowing people to shape it but also this could lead to uncertainty about what to do, leaving these employees open to risk
  • Paperwork is a part of the job 

PPI group members felt that the photos were a powerful means of illustrating difficulties faced by some link workers as they struggle to meet a range of demands and to fulfil their wish to be helpful and to make a different to patients’ situations. We plan to develop an online gallery of the photos later in the year. It will be presented on this website. 

The study mentioned in this blog is funded by a grant from NIHR School for Primary Care Research (Award 678). The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the funder or the author’s host institution.