GPs host tea parties for elderly to fight loneliness and reduce consultations

GP practices are hosting tea parties to combat loneliness among elderly patients and reduce unnecessary practice visits.

Tea parties at GP practices have helped tackle loneliness
Tea parties at GP practices have helped tackle loneliness

Two practices in the West Midlands have become the latest to launch tea parties in association with the charity Contact the Elderly.

Almost 600 tea party groups run by the charity exist across the country, but last summer a Liverpool practice became the first to host its own group, meeting monthly on Sundays.

The charity is calling for more practices to set up groups to combat isolation, and for practices to refer patients to events in their local area.

Research by Contact the Elderly with 2,000 older patients found that a quarter said the tea parties and other support from the charity reduced the number of times they visited their GP practice.

Read more: how GPs can use social prescribing

Practices now running the tea party events are the Storrsdale Medical Centre in Liverpool, the Ley Hill Surgery in Sutton Coldfield and the Coventry Road Practice in Sheldon, Birmingham.

Storrsdale Medical Centre GP Dr Velayudham Murugesh said: ‘I would love to see that all medical practices are doing this, because it would definitely reduce the pressure on GPs and improve the physical and mental health of isolated older patients.

Storrsdale practice manager and volunteer group co-ordinator Deepa Gnanasundaram said: 'We have seen a reduction in the numbers of patients coming to us because they are lonely and an increase in the standing of the practice in the community.'

Contact the Elderly hopes to launch 125 new tea parties in 2015, with six GP groups by the end of 2015.

Photos: Contact the Elderly

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