The Government has announced new plans to encourage doctors to use 'social prescribing' for lonely patients, rather than medication.
According to the Mirror, Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that GPs will be able to refer people who are lonely to community and group activities, by 2023.
Theresa May confirmed that £1.8million was being put into community projects, such as art spaces and gardens. So which sort of activites will doctors be recommending?
Reportedly, GPs will refer people to activities such as dance and cookery classes, as well as walking clubs and art groups, to combat loneliness.
The Prime Minister also revealed the emotional reason behind the Government’s decision to unveil ‘social prescribing’. In a speech, she praised the late MP, Jo Cox, for drawing attention to the issue of loneliness before her untimely death in 2016, and for pushing forward changes.
Theresa May said, “Jo Cox was absolutely right to highlight the critical importance of this growing social injustice which sits alongside childhood obesity and mental well-being as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.
“I was pleased to be able to support the Loneliness Commission set up in Jo’s name and I am determined to do everything possible to take forward its recommendations.”
She continued, “This strategy is only the beginning of delivering a long and far reaching social change in our country – but it is a vital first step in a national mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes.”
The PM also confessed that the new way of helping to combat loneliness will help to reduce pressure on the NHS – and would also work to improve patient’s quality of life.
Loneliness is without doubt one of the biggest social problems of our time. According to Age UK, it’s something that particularly affects people in their later life.
They have stated that 1.9 million older people report feeling ignored or invisible, and that a huge 3.6 million older people in the UK actually live alone.
Loneliness can also be linked to a range of other conditions, such as depression, hypertension, sleep problems and impaired cognitive health.
The Government’s changes won’t be brought into force for five years, so if you’re an older person struggling with the effects of loneliness in the meantime, head to Age UK for help and support.