Older People: Mental Health

Department of Health written question – answered on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of chronic loneliness among older people on demand for GP appointments in (a) England and (b) Basildon and Billericay constituency.

Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of steps taken by local authorities to tackle loneliness; and what support the Government has provided to local authorities for such work.

Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of steps taken by NHS bodies to tackle loneliness.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health

The Department has not carried out an assessment of the impact of loneliness in England or in Basildon and Billericay. The Campaign to End Loneliness report Loneliness: the State We’re In (2012) demonstrated that loneliness has a very negative impact on health. Research identified by the Campaign to End Loneliness has shown it has an effect on mortality that is similar in size to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than obesity. Loneliness and social isolation is also associated with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, poor sleep and depression.

The Government has not made an assessment of the steps the National Health Service and local authorities have taken to tackle loneliness. Given the complexity of loneliness and the different ways that people are affected there is no single solution that can tackle loneliness and having a range of interventions and solutions is helpful. The Department has funded the Social Care Institute for Excellence to develop and run the Prevention Library which includes examples of emerging practice to prevent, reduce or delay peoples care and support needs from deteriorating. This includes examples of what NHS bodies and local authorities have done to tackle loneliness such as the NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group Living Well programme and LinkAge supported by Bristol City Council.

Prevention is core to the Government’s approach to people managing their health and care needs. My Rt. hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health set out in his speech to the Local Government Association on 1 July that we all have a responsibility at an individual, family, and community level to identify people with care needs such as loneliness and provide support and improve their wellbeing.

Through the Care Act 2014 the Government has placed a duty on local authorities to have measures in place to identify people in their area who would benefit from universal services to help reduce, delay or prevent needs for care and support. This includes needs that may arise from loneliness and social isolation.

The Department has supported a ‘digital toolkit’ for local commissioners, which was developed by the Campaign to End Loneliness, and is now incorporated in their guidance Loneliness and Isolation: Guidance for Local Authorities and Commissioners. This supports commissioners in understanding, mapping and commissioning for loneliness and social isolation in their communities, and includes promising approaches to tackling loneliness.

We are building a better understanding of how prevention can maintain people’s wellbeing and the evidence base on the effectiveness of interventions is expanding. Through the Prevention Library local authorities can learn from emerging practice, and exchange ideas and experience of the impact of information, advice and befriending services.

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