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GPs should encourage lonely patients to take up singing and arts classes, say NICE

Health regulator NICE is calling for GPs to signpost patients at risk from loneliness and isolation to local singing, arts and crafts and walking groups, to help them stay healthy and keep living independent lives.

In a new Quality Standard, NICE advisors said GPs should be offering a range of community-run activities to people identified as being at risk, to help them ‘build or maintain social participation’.

But the standard also says organisations such as councils – rather than GP practices – should be responsible for identifying elderly people who are most at risk and making sure there plenty of services on offer.

It comes after Pulse revealed NHS chiefs are pushing for GP practices to receive funding dedicated to social prescribing, on the back of various models to help people with housing, debt or loneliness problems – most of which rely on link workers operating within the practice with input from GPs.

NICE said people over 65 who, for example, have lost a partner recently, are living alone, or have had to give up driving are the type of people particularly at risk. GPs should be encouraging them to attend things like dancing and swimming clubs, arts groups and singing programmes or helping with reading in schools, as well as volunteering and befriending programmes.

Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, professor of general practice research at Keele University and member of the advisory group that came up with the standard, said: ‘As a GP it is often difficult to identify older people at risk as you won’t necessarily know if they’ve had a bereavement or lost a job.

‘It’s really tricky to keep up to date with what services are available in a local area, as they come and go. As a GP it is difficult to remember exactly which groups are available each day, so I’m not able to be specific in the suggestions I give to patients.

‘We must also remember this is not mandatory and some older people do manage to maintain their health despite not socialising.’

Quality statements

Older people who are at risk of a decline in their independence and mental wellbeing are identified by service providers.

Older people most at risk of a decline in their independence and mental wellbeing are offered tailored, community-based physical activity programmes.

Older people most at risk of a decline in their independence and mental wellbeing are offered a range of activities to build or maintain social participation.

Source: NICE QS137 – Mental wellbeing and independence for older people

Readers' comments (31)

  • I think they must be lonely,instead of meetings to decide what they can lumber us with they should sing and do art instead.

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  • @ 2.23pm - spot on!

    I refer you to NICE QS141 advising patients who get a sudden pain in the eye when drinking a cup of tea, to remove the spoon first.

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  • 5.29pm. Valid point!

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  • NICE are in existence to come up with guidelines. It is their raison d'etra. Is this good advice? Yes. Is it a GP's job? Yes. Will it cost us time or money? No.

    If we accept that guideline based medicine is the correct wayforward then the guidelines need to be ccomprehensive, including bits you may find obvious or patronising.

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  • Vinci Ho

    You see
    No doubt , these academics and guidance makers are part of these 'elites' :
    Reading what Mark Carney(having enough of the blame from politicians and breaking his shackles and decided to leave his job in 2019),Bank of England governor , said today in Liverpool (Carney warns about popular disillusion with capitalism - BBC News;http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38210169), one can understand how successive governments have behaved in the last decade under the atmosphere of globalisation. The socioeconomic gap has widened further as a result of '"Globalisation is associated with low wages, insecure employment, stateless corporations and striking inequalities''. The impact of austerity limited the choices of local councils with stifling budgets. (Liverpool Mayor is currently working on a local referendum to decide whether to raise council tax by 10%, for instance) . All these social facilities like libraries,social clubs , community centres etc are all risk of closing down due to funding issues . Remember the infamous tale of the closing a library in Mr Cameron's old constituency against his dear mother's wishes?
    Aunty May could say whatever in building a society for everyone especially looking after the JAMs(just about managing)but the hypocrisy of reality is written all over the place.
    NICE can be the so politically correct elites , leaving the so dangerously flawed hypocrisy for GPs to pick up....
    Who is the real enemy of common people ?

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  • re 8.01. Guidelines without resources to adhere to them are worthless. And no it is not a GP's job to familiarise myself with local carol warbling classes and of course it would cost us time and therefore money. Each time someone recommends something new that we must do they also need to also need to balance it with something we can give up or give me more money.

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  • Couldn't disagree more with comments so far. We have arts clubs, luncheon clubs, tea dances, mosaic classes. Result: 20% reduction in GP attendance. This isn't about saving money. It's about doing the obvious reduces workload. https://goo.gl/iejS30

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  • 5/12 2150: Maybe you didn't read thsi paragraph: "But the standard also says organisations such as councils – rather than GP practices – should be responsible for identifying elderly people who are most at risk and making sure there plenty of services on offer."?

    You don't have to go out of your way. You just have to be nice to people and suggest ways to get out more. Surely not too much to ask?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Respecting the arguments from both sides(expansionist versus reductionist), I would only want to say 'check the financial situation of your local council '. And NICE has had no authority and say on this matter .
    Yes, we are not really interested in politics, only wanting to treat our patients but I also agree with Jason Cowley on NewStatesman (latest article)' But politics is interested in you!'

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  • We have created a club for our senior citizen patients. The surgery pays for the rent, tea, coffee and provide some games. The club is held once a week in the afternoon in a local venue. It is informal, free of bureaucracy and the obstacle you can get from NHS and councils . It is run by patients for patients. This week they are have arranged to have a Christmas party, sorry the ticket sold out in August.
    at least 30 people attend every week, it started with 2 patients.

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