GP practice receptionists in Lincolnshire have been receiving training on how to spot the signs of loneliness so patients can be quickly directed to the support they need.
The training was delivered by NHS Property Services (NHSPS) in partnership with Campaign to End Loneliness. It focuses on equipping receptionists with knowledge of the key risk factors of loneliness, identifying and supporting people at risk, and self-care.
According to research, people who experience loneliness are more likely to visit their GP and use other health services such as A&E.
A survey by the RCGP in 2018 found that 75% of GPs say that between one and five consultations per day are due to loneliness.
Hilary Stables, chief people officer at NHSPS, said: ‘Our NHS receptionists are the first port of call of people accessing medical services and are therefore in a prime position to make a difference, so we are excited to be partnering with Campaign to End Loneliness to upskill our receptionist teams in spotting and supporting those suffering from loneliness.’
Robin Hewings, programme director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said that the training would help receptionists ‘to direct lonely people to specialist services to get them the support they need, whilst also freeing up GP time’.
He added that loneliness was a key issue in society today and that it could impact mental and physical health.
‘Loneliness can lead to a host of health issues, including an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, dementia and depression,’ he said.
A study in 2010 found that the effect of loneliness on mortality is comparable to risk factors such as obesity and cigarette smoking.
Government research suggests a reduction in loneliness from ‘severe’ to ‘moderate’ would have the same wellbeing benefit to the average person as a rise in income of £9,537 per year.
The NHS receptionist training began with a pilot in Stockport in the Northwest of England in September, and the scheme is now being expanded nationwide.
Practices that are not managed by NHSPS can contact the Campaign to End Loneliness to arrange their own training by emailing Mhairi Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Nursing in Practice