National Association for Patient Participation

RCGPNI launches loneliness community action plan

23 May 2018

The Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland (RCGPNI) has said that 10-minute appointments are unfit for purpose as GPs need more time to care. However, workforce gaps and workload pressures facing general practice must be addressed to allow GPs to spend longer with their patients.

The call comes as part of RCGPNI’s community action plan to tackle loneliness. 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.


Launching the community action plan, Dr Grainne Doran, RCGPNI Chair, said: “Loneliness has become a public health epidemic.


“GPs and their teams have a key role to play in identifying people who are chronically lonely or who are at risk of becoming lonely. All too often, GPs are the only human contact that chronically lonely patients have. These moments of meaningful connection matter.


“As family doctors, we believe that treating patients means listening to them and understanding their concerns – but GPs need time to care. 10-minute appointments are unfit for purpose, but the extreme pressures on general practice means it can be impossible for GPs to spend longer with patients, getting to know what really matters to them. We need to address workload pressures and make longer appointments an option for patients right across the region.


“Tackling loneliness is about more than medical care. This is why we are launching our community action plan to help tackle the problem and ensure that GPs and their teams can provide the best possible care to lonely patients.


“We know it can be hard for people who are lonely to know where to turn for support. That’s why we want to see a dedicated professional for every GP surgery - a community navigator.


“We also want Councils to help people make the right connections by establishing a regularly updated database of community and voluntary sector projects and schemes in their area. This will support patients, community navigators and carers to ensure that people are matched to the best schemes for their needs.”

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 - it is as simple as that!

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