NEXT week, I will attend my first meeting as a new member of Glasgow’s Integration Joint Board, which is responsible for overseeing community-based health and social care services in the city.

The board’s work may have never been more in the spotlight. The first item on its agenda next week is consideration of well-publicised proposals for a safe drug consumption facility in Glasgow. This is a long-standing aim of the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), and it can now progress with plans following clarification from Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute anyone using or facilitating the use of drugs at such a facility. As my colleague Martha Wardrop wrote in these pages last week, this is an important step forward in reducing the harm associated with drug use.

Importantly, the proposed site for the facility, Hunter Street in the East End, is already home to a range of other complementary services including heroin-assisted treatment and access to rehabilitation and recovery services, including from third sector partners.

This is all about proper integration of services that protect people’s health but also address a whole range of issues holistically.

It is somewhat baffling therefore that in another area of the board’s most important responsibilities – that of primary care – there are harmful cuts planned to the number of community link workers embedded within the city’s GP surgeries, from nearly 70 full-time posts today, to 42 in 2024.

Community link workers offer wide-ranging support, tailored to people’s individual needs, such as help with housing, social security, debt and money advice, food and fuel poverty, loneliness, abuse and much more. They are based in the most disadvantaged areas of the city. They are hugely valued by the GPs they work with and their positive impact has been well evidenced.

They offer the kind of practical and personal support which not only provides immediate benefit to people – especially in the grip of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis – but also supports their longer-term improvement and reverses health inequalities. They are a textbook example of preventative spend – channelling money to addressing the causes of poverty and inequality, not just managing the symptoms. The fact is we need more community link workers, not fewer.

What’s extra baffling is that no one – neither the Scottish Government nor the HSCP – really disputes the value of community link workers. The issue is that there is an impasse over who should pay for them. At the moment there is a £3 million shortfall to deliver the level of service required for the transformation of primary care the HSCP wants to see, with £1.3m of Scottish Government funding required to keep the current level of service going into 2024/25.

Our citizens, whose lives are improved by community link workers, and the workers themselves, deserve better than this stand-off.

Green councillors are calling on the Scottish Government to guarantee the relatively modest funding needed to reverse this short-sighted decision. Longer-term, we need to find better ways of protecting prevention services, like community link workers, which deliver savings across the whole of the public purse.