Adam Fuller, Advice Worker with the Welfare Rights & Health Project, writes about a typical day in this varied role.
Hello. My name is Adam and I work on the Welfare Rights & Health Project, a collaboration between Citizens Advice Edinburgh (CAE) and NHS Lothian, offering a full CAE general advice service in hospitals. I cover both the Royal Infirmary and the Western General hospitals, working Monday to Friday 9-5pm., offering advice at the point where people are often given life changing news and are having to deal with a sudden change in circumstances.
The title of this piece is a bit of a misnomer as there is really no such thing as a typical day. I start each day by checking the NHS email account I use as one way for departments, or clients, to get in touch with me – I also call in to the Patient Advice Centre and the Social Work Department where messages and referrals are also left for me. I will usually have two or three bedside visits to do each morning - the morning is good time as it is before visiting starts and there is always a chance to catch the consultants and doctors to get more information or request a 'fit' note. That said, the charge nurses are very helpful, especially with providing additional information for ESA/PIP/AA claim forms.
In the afternoons I catch-up with paperwork and visit those patients that I have made an appointment with. Each day is different, and for an advice worker working in a medical environment there are many challenges. Privacy is hard to come by and although people in general are quite happy openly discussing intimate details of their medical conditions, (despite my reminders that I am not medically trained, and really have no need to see their scars and wounds, they always insist that I do – so a strong stomach also helps), people are much more reluctant to talk about financial worries in public. The Royal Infirmary is an incredibly busy environment to work in so it can be a challenge to find a quiet corner in which to talk to worried carers enquiring about benefits, or staff members that may have money worries or employment issues. That said, the staff will often go out of their way to help me find somewhere quiet and private to talk to people.
Although much of the work I do is benefit related I do try and find out as much as I can about the person which may sometimes reveal other issues I may be able to give advice on. This could be about aids or adaptations to their home, signposting to support groups, issues around employment or how to make a complaint about the NHS, just the kind of things you would get in a bureau but with a more obvious health focus.
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