News & Media

New ‘Life after lockdown’ report launched in #LonelinessAwarenessWeek


A new report from the British Red Cross launches today – highlighting the impact of COVID-19 for those most vulnerable to loneliness.

The research found that more than 41% of UK adults feel lonelier since lockdown, while 33% haven’t had a meaningful conversation with someone in a week.

The charity, which is one of the organisations leading the national Loneliness Action Group, is calling for the continued roll-out of social prescribing to ensure it delivers for loneliness while the APPG on Loneliness is currently running an inquiry looking at issues including the role of community infrastructure and public spaces in tackling isolation. As members of the Loneliness Action Group, our evidence to the inquiry is summarised below:

Primary care buildings, which are a crucial part of the social infrastructure of any place, offer unique opportunities to support and facilitate social connections and prevent feelings of loneliness. There are many existing examples, such as Frome Medical Centre in Somerset and Eagle Bridge Primary Care centre in Crewe, where primary care space is used to bring people together with community cafes or space for community activities alongside clinical care. Our national Healthy Communities grant scheme, which invited GP practices in our buildings to nominate health-improving charity projects which support their patients, has seen this in action for social prescribing programmes – with many nominations focusing on activities within the building such as coffee and chat sessions, information ‘buddies’ in the building to signpost to local health activities, gardening projects in the medical centre grounds and bereavement befriending run from the centres.

In action: With Royal Voluntary Service, we have been exploring the potential to pilot primary care-based volunteer support from medical centre buildings – again designed in part to support social connection and reduce isolation. We believe there is huge potential to make greater use of primary care buildings as connecting spaces. In our new-build schemes, we are working to deepen our understanding of how to achieve this most effectively for staff, patients and voluntary sector projects and would be pleased to support further research, pilot studies or discussion in this area.

Dovercourt Medical Centre in Sheffield has a gardening scheme running in the medical centre grounds in partnership with Heeley City Farm, bringing together people who have experienced loneliness and isolation to find solace in the peace and positivity of working on the garden while at Moor Park Health and Leisure Centre, in Blackpool, several GP practices share a building with the local authority’s leisure centre; a very deliberate marriage of services to manage and treat illness with those to promote and enhance good health.

A clear strategy to enable social and community infrastructure to more effectively bring together local activities and clinical care would be a great step. In a 2020 survey of our GP practice occupiers, space for social prescribing activities on site was cited among the building improvements which would make the biggest difference to staff and patients.

Right now: Our new Assura Community Fund is inviting applications from projects tackling loneliness in communities around our buildings across the country – read more.