Called Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic, public and political awareness of social isolation – and its detrimental impact on the health of people of all ages – has grown out of all recognition.
It even led to Theresa May’s government appointing a Loneliness Minister after the then PM accepted the importance of the issue. And while the network of support groups in local communities is a credit to this country, and all those involved, there are still people who are too proud to seek help – or do not know how, or where, to do so. This is reflected by University of Sheffield groundbreaking research which reveals the extent to which people suffering from loneliness are far more likely to visit their GP than those patients with supportive families.
Two lessons can be drawn from analysis which coincides with current angst over the availability of face-to-face GP appointments. First, recognition that medical centres are the front line of the NHS and that Ministers need to be treating the current staffing crisis far more seriously. Second, the university’s estimate that 3.7 million people are “lonely” is a reminder of the enduring importance of all the positive work inspired by the Hidden Epidemic campaign – and the need to maintain momentum.
It’s also in society’s best interests. Fewer people enduring an isolated existence equates to less pressure on GPs and, in turn, more scope for doctors to tackle the backlog in NHS cases caused by Covid.
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