SHOCKINGLY, up to a fifth of all adults in the UK feel lonely most or all of the time, writes Rachel Maclean MP.
This statistic alone makes loneliness one of the biggest public health challenges currently facing our country.
We must and we are doing something about it.
When we think of loneliness, I’m sure the majority of us will picture older people stuck in their homes with no one to talk to, when the only social contact they’ll get is a fleeting visit to the local shop.
Sadly, loneliness doesn’t just affect older people, it affects anyone of any age and background.
To tackle this growing public health challenge, on Monday the Prime Minister launched the first ever cross-Government strategy. Backed up by new funding from the £20billion long-term plan for the NHS, this will see all GPs in England being able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.
Here in Redditch I have seen so many groups doing amazing work to tackle loneliness. Among them are Carers Careline, Redditch Lions, Redditch Community Sheds project.
So-called ‘social prescribing’ is at the heart of this strategy. It means GPs will be able to refer patients to cookery classes, walking clubs and arts groups. Rightly, you’re probably questioning why the NHS will be spending money on such things, but it’s because loneliness is linked to a range of damaging health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
By helping people get out and about, not only can we take steps to end loneliness, we can reduce demand on the NHS and improve quality of life.
The strategy is also bringing together Government, charities and businesses.
The Prime Minister also confirmed £1.8million to increase the number of community spaces available – the funding will be used to transform under used areas, such as creating new community cafes, art spaces or gardens.
This is a huge step in the right direction and is a vital part of our country’s mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes.