New treatment at doctor's surgery planned to tackle loneliness

8 November 2017

A doctor’s surgery may soon be prescribing a new type of treatment after it was revealed that up to 4,000 people in South Cambridgeshire could be suffering from loneliness.

Under plans published today, South Cambridgeshire District Council is proposing a pilot project so a non-medical professional can be available at a doctor’s surgery in the area to give support to people returning for regular appointments as they want someone to talk to.

A Council task and finish group explored the problem earlier this year with GPs and medical practitioners reporting to councillors that there is a need to tackle the growing problem.

The scheme would give the GPs a non-medical referral option so the right type of support can be given to help people who feel isolated to access other services and local groups where people get together and socialise.

The national Campaign to End Loneliness estimates that between 1,700 and 3,840 people over 65 years old in South Cambridgeshire are lonely.

The new initiative will cost £17,500 per year to base a non-medical member of staff at the GP surgery. The new post would provide the best support for people who are isolated as well as help free up appointments with doctors for people who need medical help.

In the report that will be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet next Thursday (16 November), further development of time banks and volunteering opportunities are also suggested to help people build better social networks.

The Social Prescribing pilot scheme is planned to be in partnership with Granta Medical Practice which serves Sawston, Linton and surrounding villages.

If the scheme is supported by the Council’s Cabinet it is hoped it will get up and running around April next year.

Cllr Sue Ellington, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: ʺThe facts speak for themselves and loneliness is a really significant problem that we must tackle. Lonely people who are socially isolated need the correct support and GPs have seen a rise in the number of people who regularly visit them without a real medical problem. This scheme will give them a non-medical referral option that will provide the type of friendly help and support that is needed to get the person connected with people and groups in their community. This has a benefit for everyone.”

Gerard Newnham, Business Practice Manager at Granta Medical Practices, said: “The majority of patients with chronic health conditions inevitably have some sort of social need as well, this maybe lifestyle or practical help such as hand rails, weight management, housing or social integration. Having the Social Navigator integrated into the Granta health team will mean we can offer a seamless service to patients, improving their health and lifestyle outcomes and preventing problems deteriorating or leading to other medical complications.”

For more information visit the Cabinet meeting agenda section of our website.