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New NHS training aims to address loneliness and social isolation

23 June 2021

Staff across the NHS, care and voluntary sectors will have access to a range of interventions and information about how to refer or signpost people who may be at risk of loneliness and social isolation.  

A new e-learning resource has been developed by Health Education England (HEE) in collaboration with Public Health England and the Campaign to End Loneliness. It provides information to help health and care learners to recognise people who may be at risk from loneliness and social isolation and understand the potential negative outcomes this may have on their health.  

HEE is launching the e-learning resource during World Wellbeing Week (21-30 June) and hosting a webinar entitled, ‘Tackling Loneliness’ on 30 June with an expert panel discussing the adverse impact on healthcare. 

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.   

The resource includes training on handling conversations and interactions with people at risk.  It also provides access to the available range of evidence-based interventions and explains how to refer or signpost people to support services.  

Janet Flint, Programme Lead for Long Term Conditions and Prevention, Maternity and Children and Young People, at HEE said: “Everyone involved in the health and care of others has the unique opportunity to recognise and support those who may be suffering ill physical or mental health caused by loneliness.  

“Research carried out over the past year has shown that even more people may be suffering because of vital measures which were required to manage the coronavirus pandemic such as physical distancing, shielding and lockdown measures. 

“This resource provides the tools to support a whole system approach to reducing loneliness and social isolation. It can help build the capability of the future and existing health and care workforces, as well as providing valuable information to those who give their time, energy and skills as volunteers.”  

Robin Hewings, Programme Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness said:  

“Loneliness can have a massive impact on people's health, you are more likely to experience poor health and limited prospects if you are lonely.  This tool offers support to practitioners who are playing a pivotal, often unsung role in helping people rebuild their social connections after Covid-19.  Our work on this tool, together with other experts in the loneliness field, means that staff have a resource they can call upon if they think someone may be lonely and can help make direct interventions more easily." 

The webinar on Tackling Loneliness, will be held on 30 Jun, 12-1pm will be chaired by Professor Simon Gregory, HEE’s Deputy Medical Director, with the following speakers: 

  • Chris Sharp – Workforce Development Lead – North East and Yorkshire (Public Health England) 
  • Dr. Kalpa Kharicha – Head of Research, Policy and Practice (Campaign to End Loneliness) 
  • Gay Palmer, Social Prescribing Link Worker (National Academy of Social Prescribing). 

HEE Tackling Loneliness Webinar Link 

View the Loneliness and Social Isolation training

For media enquiries contact: pressoffice@hee.nhs.uk