The British Red Cross responds to the launch of the new Government Loneliness Strategy announced today by Theresa May
Loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, Theresa May said today as she launched the first cross-Government strategy to tackle it. The Prime Minister confirmed all GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
Three-quarters of GPs surveyed have said they are seeing between one and five people a day suffering with loneliness, which is linked to a range of damaging health impacts, like heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
The practice known as ‘social prescribing’ will allow GPs to direct patients to community workers offering tailored support to help people improve their health and wellbeing, instead of defaulting to medicine.
Zoë Abrams, executive director at the British Red Cross and co-chair of the Loneliness Action Group, said: “This is a major step forward in tackling loneliness, an issue which our research shows affects one in five of us. We are delighted to see that the strategy contains all of the recommendations the British Red Cross called for.
“The expansion of “social prescribing” is a very positive step. We hope in future, along with GPs, all frontline health professionals will be equipped to ask about a patient’s risk of loneliness and recommend support to them in the same way they would now ask about stopping smoking, regular exercise and healthy eating.
“Some areas of government policy will now be scrutinised for their potential impact on loneliness and we look forward to seeing a loneliness test for all government policy rolled out further in future. We’d also like to see all local authority policies and any service changes – such as the closure of a library or cutting bus services – assessed for how they could impact on people’s social connections.
“Loneliness can affect anyone – and everyone can help. The British Red Cross is committed to continuing to work with government to tackle loneliness through the Loneliness Action Group (co-chaired by ourselves and Co-op) and comprised of dozens of senior private, voluntary and public representatives.”