From Brazil to Battersea - Community health and wellbeing workers aim to boost uptake of NHS services

Published: Monday, July 31, 2023

A scheme, which transformed the health of people in Brazil’s poorest neighbourhoods, is coming to Wandsworth after successfully increasing take up of NHS services elsewhere in the capital.

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The scheme brings community health and wellbeing workers right to the heart of those neighbourhoods where health inequalities lead to lower life expectancy compared to more affluent areas close by. The workers visit people in their homes to provide health and wellbeing advice and connect them to NHS services and support. 

A version of the Brazil scheme has been running successfully in Westminster where it led to an 82 per cent increase in take up of cancer screening and health checks as well as a 47 per cent increase in immunisations. By directing people to the right services for them, the workers also helped reduce pressure on local GPs who saw a 7.4 per cent fall in appointments per household. 

In Wandsworth, the project will run on Battersea's Doddington and Rollo estates. It has received a £50,000 grant from NHS South West London's health inequalities fund, which offered cash to innovative projects to tackle unequal access to healthcare. 

It is a partnership project bringing together the five GP Practices in Battersea Primary Care Network and South West London NHS, Wandsworth Council, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and other community organisations.

Graeme Henderson, Wandsworth Council Cabinet Member for Health, said:

"We are proud to be part of the partnership behind this innovative project. It will help us deliver our promise to make Wandsworth a fairer, more compassionate and healthier borough by giving tailored support to the people that need it most in their own homes. 

"It’s vital that we reach people who may not usually engage with our healthy lifestyle programmes because we want to ensure everyone can get the help they need to be healthy - especially during the Cost of Living crisis."

GP Dr Jenni Ellingham of Battersea Fields Practice said:

"This really simple and cost-effective scheme has significantly improved people’s health and wellbeing both in Brazil and other areas of London. We are really excited to be part of this project and to see how this scheme will impact the health of our local community."

Battersea’s first community health and wellbeing worker Habeebah Green will begin her visits in the coming weeks. She said:

"I'm excited to be getting started and visiting people in the area. This way of delivering healthcare is completely different to what most people are used to. As a Wandsworth resident myself, I hope I can gain the trust of the community and encourage people to seek the help they need for any health or wellbeing concerns. I can also point people in the direction of sources of help, and be here to listen if people feel lonely, isolated or worried."

Watch Community health workers on the Doddington and Rollo Estates: