All GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced.
The Government will also partner with Royal Mail on a new scheme in Liverpool, New Malden and Whitby, where postal workers will check on lonely people as part of their rounds, and then link them to support if necessary.
Meanwhile, a number of businesses have pledged to take steps to support their employees’ health and social wellbeing, including Co-op, British Red Cross, Sainsbury’s and Transport for London.
Ms May launched the cross-Government social prescribing strategy today after three quarters of GPs surveyed said they were seeing between one and five patients a day who were suffering from loneliness, which is linked to heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s.
Funding will be provided to send patients to activities including cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups with the aim of improving their quality of life, while reducing demand on the NHS.
An additional £1.8 million has been announced to increase the number of community spaces available, including cafes, art spaces and gardens.
Ms May said: ‘Across our communities there are people who can go for days, weeks or even a month without seeing a friend or family member.’
‘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.’
Tracey Crouch, minister for loneliness, said: ‘Our strategy sets out a powerful vision for addressing this generational challenge.
‘By bringing together health services, businesses, local authorities, charities and community groups we will raise awareness of loneliness and help people build connections to lead happier and healthier lives.’
It follows health secretary Matt Hancock’s promise of £4.5m towards social prescribing schemes such as gardening and art clubs in July.
The Government also announced £20m in June to help charities and community groups expand their programmes to benefit communities.