Age UK, the country’s largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life, has responded to the government’s first loneliness strategy, released on 15 October.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, confirmed all GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “We welcome the government’s new strategy and support its commitment to tackling loneliness as a major public health problem. It is a real step in the right direction.”
In a government report, it was found three quarters of GPs surveyed have said they are seeing between one and five people a day suffering with loneliness.
Loneliness is linked to a number of damaging health impacts including heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our recent report set out that the number of people over 50 suffering from loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025/6.
“Being lonely means a life cut off from the sense of community and connection that most of us take for granted,” Ms Abrahams said.
Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
The government has said this new plan is part of the long-term plan for the NHS and funding will be provided to connect individuals to a variety of activities.
“All of us who worked as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness are well aware that government can’t solve loneliness alone – that will take concerted action across society.
“But government can provide the leadership and direction to make sure action and funding follow.
“So it’s good to see the Prime Minister confirming that GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023,” Ms Abrahams said.
Up to a fifth of UK adults experience loneliness most or all of the time.
Prime Minister Theresa May said in her foreword for the strategy: “Loneliness is a reality for too many people in our society today, it can affect anyone of any age or background.
“Across our communities there are people who can go for days, weeks or even a month without seeing a friend or family member.
“So Jo Cox was absolutely right to highlight the critical importance of this growing social injustice which sits alongside childhood obesity and mental wellbeing 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.”