On 15 October 2018, the government announced a new strategy on loneliness.
The strategy will enable GPs across England to refer lonely patients to community activities like cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups by 2023.
This will be called 'social prescribing' and will mean doctors can try to improve their patients' wellbeing through activities rather than medicine.
The government will also trial a partnership with Royal Mail in Liverpool, New Malden and Whitby. The sheme will get postal workers to check in on isolated people and help them link up with their communities or family as part of delivery rounds.
Finally, Prime Minister Theresa May announced £1.8 million to increase community spaces by transforming underused areas and creating new community cafés, arts spaces and gardens.
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The facts about loneliness
In announcing this strategy on loneliness, the Prime Minister acknowledged that loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.
- Three quarters of GPs surveyed say they see 1 to 5 people a day who are suffering from loneliness.1
- Loneliness has been linked to conditions such as heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer's.2
- 200,000 older people haven't had a conversation with a friend or relative in the past month.3
- The number of over 50s suffering from loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025/6. This amounts to a 49% increase in 10 years.4
What we think
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, says:
"We welcome the government's new strategy and support its commitment to tackling loneliness as a major public health problem. It is a real step in the right direction.
"Our recent report set out that the number of people over 50 suffering from loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025/6. Being lonely means a life cut off from the sense of community and connection that most of us take for granted.
"All of us who worked as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness are well aware that government can't solve loneliness alone - that will take concerted action across society. But government can provide the leadership and direction to make sure action and funding follow. So it's good to see the Prime Minister confirming that GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
"We hope that government continues to show leadership in tackling loneliness and that this strategy is able to harness the political and public energy to really challenge what has become a devastating and distressing reality for so many people."