GP loneliness scheme cuts fifth of consultations with elderly patients

A programme set up by GPs cut consultations with a group of older patients by a fifth after encouraging lonely older people to set up social groups.

Older patients encouraged to set up social groups to beat loneliness
Older patients encouraged to set up social groups to beat loneliness

The scheme took place across four practices in Warwickshire, where people over 75 were contacted for a ‘wellness check’ to see if they were socially isolated.

Those who were thought to be suffering from loneliness were then put in touch with each other and took part in social events like tea parties, and set up their own activities, such as mosaic-making.

The project, Prime75+ was set up by company PrimeGP and has been running for three months, and GPs have reported a drop consultations with the 40 patients involved.

‘The idea is, if we improve socialisation, we improve health, and reduce the need for health services,’ Dr Karen Clarke, PrimeGP founder and a GP partner at Meon Medical Centre in Warwickshire, told GPOnline.

Difficult patients

‘These are difficult patients that you know are going to take 30 to 45 minutes in the middle of a busy day and you haven’t got that time – but the patients need it.’

The PrimeGP team is collecting data from local hospitals to see if the number of admissions has dropped for the patients involved.

The project could be expanded to other age groups suffering from social isolation, or could be rolled out to chronic disease groups and in other parts of the UK, Dr Clarke said.

‘It would be very easy for other CCGs to take this project on board. GPs haven’t had to do anything extra – PrimeGP has done the work and GPs can refer their patients to us.'

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