PEOPLE battling extreme poverty accessed £850,000 of benefits because they had access to a money advice worker in their GP practice.

A pilot study at Parkhead Health Centre found it freed up doctors to focus on health and helped patients claim money they were entitled to.

Advice workers was able to fast-track social security claims because they had direct access to patient records.

GPs involved in the project also said it reduced the number of times patients asked to see their doctor.

A total of 276 referrals for help were made by GPs to the on-site worker, compared with just 24 across 42 other GP practices who didn't have a worker on-site.

The pilot is now going to be rolled out to an additional seven GP practices (resulting in a total of nine practices with an embedded advice worker).

From December 2015 to May 2017, 276 referrals were made to the advice worker based at two GP practices in the health centre.

Of these patients, 165 engaged with the advice service resulting in almost £850,000 worth of benefits they were entitled to.

The project also helped patients reduce £156,000 worth of debt, secured free bus passes and supported people to use less expensive forms of credit.

Around half of the people engaged with the service were also referred to additional forms of community support such as homelessness, mental health and carer support.

The Deep End Advice Worker pilot project used a financial advice worker from the Greater Easterhouse Money Advice Project (GEMAP).

The project was evaluated by Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

Dr Ronnie Burns, one of the GPs involved in the project said: “The financial figures speak for themselves, but also, the patients I have referred seem to have reduced their consultation rates.”

Professor Graham Watt, from GPs in the Deep End/University of Glasgow said the project could prove beneficial when Holyrood takes on new welfare powers.

He said: “A major challenge facing the new Scottish social security system will be to maximise uptake in areas of greatest need.

"This project shows how it can be done, engaging with general practices, building on trusted relationships with patients, generating new referrals to advice services and hugely benefiting large numbers of patients.”