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Combat loneliness with ‘social prescribing’, says Theresa May

GPs in England will be able to refer people to take part in social activities such as cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups to combat loneliness, the prime minister has said.

Instead of offering medication, doctors will be encouraged to use “social prescribing” to refer lonely patients to activities that could help tackle feelings of isolation.

Launching the first government loneliness strategy, Theresa May said social prescriptions would reduce demand on the NHS and improve patients’ quality of life. She plans for the new approach to be in place by 2023. In addition, the prime minister announced an extra £1.8m for community projects, such as creating new community cafes, art spaces or gardens.

Her words were echoed by Age UK, which last month said loneliness was a looming major public health concern, which could have a detrimental affect on health and wellbeing. More than 2 million people over 50 will be lonely by 2025-26, a 49% increase on the 1.36 million who were socially isolated in 2015-16, according to projections by the charity.

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