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Tea with the GP

APR
26

In a climate where GP surgeries across the UK are grappling with the challenges of funding cuts, time pressures on staff and negative press, Contact the Elderly is working closely with GP surgeries to help them address one of their biggest problems: loneliness amongst older patients.

Research from The Campaign to End Loneliness revealed over three quarters of GPs see between one and five lonely people a day simply looking for someone to talk to or answers about how they can cope with loneliness. Combined with the UK’s rapidly ageing population, this is a problem that is only set to get worse.

We have devised a simple but profound way of combatting this problem, namely tea, cake and conversation!

Since 2014, we have been partnering with GP surgeries across the UK to bring our tea party model into surgeries. These “GP tea parties” retain the same integral context of deepening social inclusion, while also offering staff opportunities to appropriately and discreetly monitor individual’s health and wellbeing. This highly effective solution has been proven to save time and money for practices whilst creating a greater sense of community between staff and patients.

Our recent research reveals to what extent even a simple cup of tea and a few hours of friendly conversation can make all the difference. 77% of older people feel happier as a result of going to the tea parties and 55% say their general wellbeing has improved since joining a group.

The initiative has so far been successful because of its grass roots approach to the communities it works in with surgery staff quickly recognising the simple benefits of the tea parties as a way to reduce pressure on their services. One example is Storrsdale Medical Practice in Liverpool, which launched the first GP tea party in 2014 and has been going strong ever since.

Dr Murugesh Velayudham has seen the positive impact of the tea parties on his patients.

“For some of my patients it is the only event on their calendar other than their hospital appointments.

“I have been able to monitor their health in a social way once a month, any changes to their situations are addressed at early stages and we have been providing proactive care to the needy patients of the group.”

“This definitely has great impact on their health and total wellbeing.”

The informal setting allows staff to monitor patient’s health in a discreet way as the neediest patients are directly referred to the tea parties, by staff who recognise that loneliness is their biggest health concern; a concern which can be significantly alleviated by regular social interaction, rather than more prescriptions and appointments.

We currently have eight GP tea party groups with two more in the pipeline. The model can be rolled out and adapted to surgeries of various sizes and capacities, plus with a dedicated staff member on hand to help develop, launch and manage the initiative; it means the whole process is supported from first conversations to launch date.

Due to the success of this initiative, we have recently received a significant endorsement of this work, with funding to specifically develop six new groups over the next two years in the Manchester area. But right across England, Scotland and Wales, the charity are keen to see other practices take on this model, so any GP surgery staff or health care professionals interested in working with Contact the Elderly, or finding out more, are encouraged to get in touch.

Email jenny.bright@contact-the-elderly.org.uk or call Freephone 0800 716 543.

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