Citizen’s Advice services to be withdrawn from nine Camden GP surgeries

Hampstead Group Practice

Hampstead Group Practice - Credit: Vicky Munro

A Camden welfare advice service that almost a third of clients call “life-saving” will be cut from July 31.

The borough’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will stop funding Citizen’s Advice Camden (CAC)’s GP service, which advises on benefits and other issues, in nine health centres.

Hundreds of patients will instead have to attend drop-in Citizen’s Advice centres in Kentish Town and Regent’s Park, leading to fears many will miss out on advice.

Citizen’s Advice was previously known as the Citizens Advice Bureau, before it was rebranded in 2015.

CAC’s chief executive Margie Butler, said: “If our service is no longer there, many patients won’t seek another solution and their problems will escalate, meaning they may lose out on benefits, lose homes or get into further debt.”

A 2017 report into Citizen’s Advice’s GP service found 45pc of clients were unlikely to get advice elsewhere.

It also found Camden GPs strongly felt the service reduced their workload and saved money by reducing appointments and the need for mental health treatment.

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Ms Butler added: “My understanding is that Camden CCG has got a massive deficit and it’s not a reflection of our service.”

The CAC is looking at alternatives but is not confident due to funding constraints.

A 41-year-old mother who uses the service for her 5-year-old son said: “Even though it’s the same service, in the GP it’s 100pc better because of the location and shorter wait times.

“I am not good at English so they do 90pc of the work for me, I couldn’t do it on my own.”

She added it would be hard to queue for an appointment in the mornings as she has to take her son to school.

One 58-year-old patient said her disability would make it impossible to queue for appointments at Kentish Town.

Camden CCG, which declined to comment. is reported to have spent £430,000 commissioning a new ‘social prescribing’ service without welfare advice in 2018.

In July, CAC will be removed from surgeries in Adelaide, Bloomsbury, Brondesbury, Parliament Hill, Somers Town, Gospel Oak, Kentish Town, Hampstead, Queen’s Crescent and from West Hampstead Women’s Centre.