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February 6, 2019

The value of experience

Last year Scottish Government and COSLA reaffirmed their commitment to community led health initiatives as a central plank of Scotland’s public health strategy. Unfortunately these national plans don’t always work their way down into local decision making. Pilton Community Health Project, Scotland’s oldest community health project, is facing closure after 35 years – apparently because it no longer fits new criteria and assessment procedures for a grant from the Council and NHS. 35 years of building trust and developing relationships and experience in one of Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities. All of that now at risk of being lost.


Scotland’s oldest community health project is facing closure following sudden funding cuts.

The Pilton Community Health Project, formed in Edinburgh in 1984, said closure was “imminent” after the City of Edinburgh Council and NHS Lothian announced plans to stop funding.

The health project said it received the news “out of the blue” on Thursday.

City of Edinburgh Council said it was following a new process for allocating grants.

If it is not overturned, the project, which aims to reduce health inequalities in north Edinburgh, will be forced to close by the end of the financial year.

Project staff said they applied to the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) for renewal of £220,000 annual funding to cover core costs and specific projects “that tackle social isolation and health inequalities”, but were told by email that funding was being pulled “without explanation”.

They said they had received council and NHS funding for 30 years and claimed annual reviews had shown targets had been “met or exceeded”.

The Pilton Community Health Project:

·         Provides mental health counselling to pupils at local high schools

·         Supports women who are survivors of gender-based violence or facing other difficulties in their lives

·         Supports people from different countries integrate into the community

·         Helps people lead healthier lives by getting them more active and giving them cookery training

·         Supports local men and women with emotional distress in an adult counselling service

·         The Pilton Community Health Project (PCHP) employs 35 staff and has 40 volunteers.

Graham Rae, chairman of the PCHP board, said: “This decision has come completely out of the blue and left the people of north Edinburgh and the project staff facing a miserable Christmas and a bleak future.

“We deserve a full explanation and the opportunity to make our case to the Integration Joint Board before it rushes to a decision that will have devastating impact on people’s lives. We will not go quietly.”

Ben MacPherson, MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, said the project “serves communities with some of the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland, supporting local families and individuals in need, and encouraging and creating positivity and greater confidence within the area.”

He added: “This is yet another example of the negative impact of the UK government’s austerity agenda, which continues to reduce, and put serious pressure on, both the Scottish government’s budget and local authorities’ budgets.”

Ricky Henderson, chairman of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board said: “This is a new process for allocating grants which I strongly believe meets our strategic objectives for providing health and social care services across Edinburgh.


“Following the EIJB decision in November 2017 to review the grant programmes for those inherited from the council and NHS Lothian, a steering group was formed and a grants programme was co-produced with the voluntary sector and subsequently agreed by the EIJB in August 2018.

“The steering group completed a robust and well thought-out application and assessment process. Training and advice surgeries were held for applicants throughout and following the closing date an independent chair was appointed to moderate the allocation programme – ensuring objective and impartial decisions.

“The EIJB will consider the recommendations of sharing £14.2m from the grants review steering group at our next meeting on 14 December.”