Loneliness at Christmas ‘can lead to spike in A&E cases’

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THE impact of loneliness and isolation on older people at Christmas can cause a major spike in admissions to A&E, England’s top urgent care doctor warns today.

Prof Keith Willett, NHS England’s director for acute care, said studies showed people left on their own over the festive period are more likely to end up in A&E with worse problems.

He said a study from the south west showed a clear link between social isolation and care needs in people over 75 admitted to A&E.

Frailty was not a key reason for being admitted but 86 per cent were admitted from their own homes and 45 per cent said they were socially isolated.

He urged the public to join NHS England’s winter friends campaign, which encourages people to look in on an elderly friend or neighbour over Christmas to make sure they are warm and coping well.

“Over Christmas we want to keep people out of busy A&E departments as far as possible,” he said.

“We know there is a correlation between people who are on their own and admission to hospital.

“So, we are calling on the public to think about those people living nearby who might benefit from a visit.

“If they see other people they are more likely to mention a health problem and then are more likely to seek help early.”

He said if a frail or elderly friend or relative did feel unwell over the holiday, he advised against letting them “soldier on” to the new year but seek early advice by visiting a pharmacy for advice, calling the NHS 111 helpline, or visiting the GP.

“We often see a sharp spike in emergency admissions at this time of year and we know that the majority of these are elderly people who have stored up a health problem at home and haven’t sought treatment early hoping it will ‘go away’,” he said.

“Our message this year is if you’re feeling under the weather don’t store it up – go and see the pharmacist, look at NHS Choices or call 111 for advice.

“Don’t end up in A&E please.”