Background Social isolation and loneliness are increasingly being recognised as a priority public health problem and policy issue for older people (World Health Organization. Social isolation and loneliness [internet]). The effect of social isolation and loneliness on mortality is comparable to that of other risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity (World Health Organization. Social isolation and loneliness [internet]). Although research evidence is scarce, befriending appears to have a positive effect on the health of both voluntary befrienders and befriendees. The increased complexity of our clinical teams’ cases and referrals for internal services identified a need for additional support to benefit those requiring regular, non-clinical support.
Aims To offer a service to support internal pre and post bereavement clients, family support referrals, clinical teams and wider healthcare providers and increase access and awareness of our services for those in the wider community.
Methods June 2021. Consultation with various service groups/system design for data recording. August 2021. Small scale recruitment/specialist training of volunteers. October 2021. Review/expand/build workforce in line with service demand. Feedback process for outcome measures.
Results Referrals from internal, external and self-referral sources, 92 service users successfully supported since the inception of the service. Service users reported loneliness scores as having reduced by 23% and feelings of isolation to have reduced by 35% following intervention. Service users also rated their satisfaction with the service as 4.91/5. The service has grown from three to 13 volunteers, all of whom report high levels of satisfaction with their role, also scoring at 4.91/5.
Conclusion This small, successful service has augmented the existing clinical support offered to people in our catchment area, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. The internal referrals demonstrate how it has supported the clinical teams leading to future plans to extend the service to further support internal services and expand our offering in the wider community.
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