National Association for Patient Participation

RCGP Wales launch loneliness community action plan

23 May 2018

The Royal College of General Practitioners Wales (RCGP Wales) has said that 10-minute appointments are unfit for purpose as GPs need more time to care. However, the extreme pressures facing general practice must be addressed to allow GPs to spend longer with their patients.

The call comes as part of RCGP Wales’ community action plan to tackle the underlying reasons people seek appointments. Three out of four GPs across the UK say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely. 
 
Evidence shows that it can be as bad for patients’ health as chronic long-term conditions.
Loneliness puts people at a 50% increased risk of an early death compared to those with good social connections, and it as bad for health outcomes as obesity.

RCGP Wales has been calling for increased resources for practices, which would allow more social prescribing – moving patients away from a more medical model of illness to address the underlying causes of illness.

Launching the community action plan, Dr Rebecca Payne, RCGP Wales Chair, said:
 
“GPs and their teams have a key role to play in identifying people who attend the surgery because they are chronically lonely or who are at risk of becoming lonely. All too often, GPs are the only human contact that people have. These moments of meaningful connection matter.
 
“Treating patients means listening to them and understanding their concerns – but GPs need time to care. 10-minute GP appointments are unfit for purpose but the extreme pressures on general practice means it can be impossible for GPs to spend longer with patients. We need to address workload pressures to make longer appointments an option for patients across Wales.
 
“Ultimately, the development of community resources is essential. We know it can be hard for people to know where to turn for help. Where services are available, practices can work with social prescribers and Community Connectors to provide patients the support they need.
 
“We are launching our community action plan to help tackle problems such as loneliness and ensure GPs and their teams can provide the best possible care to lonely patients.”

Claire O’Shea Campaign Manager Wales for Campaign to End Loneliness said:

“People experiencing loneliness often have limited opportunities to make connections; however, we do know that they do access health services. Our poll of 1000 GPs found that three quarters of the GPs said they were seeing between one and five lonely people a day. GPs are well placed to identify loneliness and offer information and advice to patients through schemes such as social prescribing. Everyone has a part to play in ending loneliness and we welcome the news that RCGP Wales are identifying the role that GPs and practices can take.”

Help us to tackle loneliness by writing to your politicians - it will only take a couple of minutes. We've set up a template letter, so all you need to do is fill out your postcode, name and address and hit send.

 

Sources
1. “Loneliness puts people at a 50% increased risk of an early death compared to those with good social connections”: https://www.nhs.uk/news/mental-health/loneliness-increases-risk-of-premature-death/
2. It is as bad for health outcomes as obesity: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/11/FINAL-GP-Polling-PR-15.11.13.pdf
3. In 2016/17, 77% of the population visited their GP: http://gov.wales/docs/statistics/2018/180412-national-survey-2016-17-gp-services-en.pdf
4. “Three out of four GPs across the UK say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely”: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/11/FINAL-GP-Polling-PR-15.11.13.pdf

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