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GRANTS HELP IMPROVE ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES

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A Welsh Assembly Government pilot programme to tackle inequalities in health has shown that health service provider...
A Welsh Assembly Government pilot programme to tackle inequalities in health has shown that health service providers can achieve change and improve the access to health services, sometimes at relatively little cost, health and social services minister Brian Gibbons said today.

A report, Equity Training and Advocacy Grants - learning from the pilot programme, which details the experience of the pilot programme shows that real differences have been made. Launched in 2004, it funded 25 projects across three local health board areas - Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire. The projects were undertaken between November 2003 and April 2004.

Dr Gibbons said: 'The pilot programme has demonstrated that health service providers can bring about change and improve access to health services, sometimes with relatively little investment. There is a lot we can learn from this report. Action by front-line staff has raised awareness of health inequalities and inequities in access to health care services. In many cases, the pilot projects have also brought about service improvements and changes in working practice.

'I urge everyone involved in providing health services to reflect on how similar approaches can be applied in their work. Such action will help NHS organisations to respond to Health Challenge Wales, the national focus for action to improve health and reduce health inequalities.'

The projects addressed issues as diverse as domestic abuse, care of pre-school children with learning and emotional difficulties, homelessness, and language problems in minority ethnic groups, and how these can prevent people accessing health services. The total cost of the Equity Training and Advocacy Grants pilot programme was£105,000.

Notes

* The Equity Training and Advocacy Grants Programme stems from the report Targeting Poor Health by Professor Peter Townsend, which was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and is part of Welsh Assembly Government action to tackle inequalities in health.

* Professor Townsend's report recommended equity training grants as a means of helping doctors, nurses and other health professionals, as well as members of other organisations, to work together to identify severe unmet health needs, and to consider action to address them.

* Advocacy grants, the report said, could enable health professionals to identify wider social, economic or environmental factors affecting patient health, and could stimulate new local action to improve health outside their usual health remit.

* Peter Townsend is emeritus professor of social policy at the University of Bristol, as well as being a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and University College, Swansea. He is an international authority on the social policy aspects of poverty, inequalities in health and social deprivation.

* The next step for the Equity Training and Advocacy Grants programme and now being considered.

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