Community-wide approach needed to tackle growing challenge of loneliness and social isolation

Publication date: 27 March 2018

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study published in the BMJ about the links between loneliness and social isolation and cardiovascular conditions.

She said: "Loneliness and social isolation can have a devastating impact on our patients' long term health and wellbeing - this is something the College has been highlighting for some time, and is backed up by this research.

"The reality is that loneliness and social isolation, particularly for older people, can be on a par in terms of its impact on health with suffering from a chronic long-term condition, and, as this study shows, increase the likelihood of developing serious conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes.

"On the frontline, GPs and our teams report seeing patients on a daily basis whose underlying problems are not primarily medical, but who are feeling socially isolated or lonely. As well as being distressing for patients, loneliness can also have a real impact on general practice and the wider NHS, at a time when the whole system is facing intense resource and workload pressures.

"In response, many practices are referring patients to social prescribing schemes, for example referring patients to local activities, coffee mornings, or signing them up to surgery-run initiatives like walking groups.

"But tackling loneliness and social isolation should not all come down to GPs and our teams. We need a community-wide approach to address this growing challenge.

"That's why the College is currently working with other charities, community and voluntary organisations to draw up a manifesto to present to Government to tackle loneliness and social isolation in the UK."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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