‘For the first time in years I have hope’

An innovative project by North Tyneside Council and the NHS to help address health inequality in the Borough is showing early signs of success.

Gateway Access Plus (GAP) launched in autumn 2023, with funding from the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB).

GAP is for people with complex and multiple needs who have experienced addiction, dependence and mental ill health. They are in urgent need of support with health and social care.

The GAP team provides a dedicated Health and Care Connector, who acts as a single point of contact to help individuals access help from a range of services, such as drug and alcohol, help with their physical health, housing, welfare assistance, and safeguarding.

They listen to the experiences of a person to understand the barriers preventing them from receiving help with their health. GAP understands that previous traumas in a person’s life might stop them seeking support, and the team spends time working with the person to help them overcome these barriers.

Barriers could include:

  • Lack of motivation/inability to attend appointments due to substance misuse and mental health issues
  • Lack of confidence in attending appointment with health and other professionals
  • Stigma when engaging with services
  • Finding it hard to understand health information
  • Physical health issues impacting on ability to attend appointments
  • Previous negative experiences with health professionals
  • Too many agencies involved – this can be overwhelming and confusing, and for many there’s a fear of having to tell your story multiple times, and the fear of being judged each time
  • Not being able to afford transport to appointments, or medication

The consequence is people not accessing treatment until their needs are more serious. Not only does this put increasing pressure on hospitals, it can be much worse for someone’s long term health.


Ian* was living in a tent and was brought to the attention of the GAP team in November who started working with him straight away.

Ian says, “when winter came, I’d given up. I was drinking heavily and I’d lost the plot. I was in and out of hospital, and I had given up hope.

“I started getting help from the GAP team and my Health and Care connector Amy* and it’s made a huge difference. In just a few weeks I was out of my tent and in supported accommodation, I’ve new clothes, like clean trousers, and I’m registered with a doctor and dentist. Amy arranged for my tablets to go to a pharmacy I can walk to, so for the first time in months I could get my medication. I don’t turn up to A+E at the hospital as much. I’m drinking less.

“These sound like small things but they’re massive for me, and for the first time in years, I have hope.

“Amy supports me with my housing, medical and any other appointments, and I don’t want the support to end. I know she’s proud of me for the changes in the last few months, but I want to keep going. I want to detox and go into rehab. I want to see my kids again. I’m not sure I’ll get there without her and the team; they make me feel like I’m not alone and these things are actually achievable.

“I don’t want to say where I might have been had Amy and the GAP team not helped me; it’s too upsetting”.

Councillor Karen Clark, Chair of North Tyneside Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “Everyone should be able to lead long and healthy lives, regardless of their background.  We are committed to removing the barriers that prevent this, and I’m delighted that the project’s showing some early signs of success.

“Reducing health inequality in North Tyneside is a priority for us and our partners, and we are determined that the gap does not widen further”.