Gardening and ballroom dancing prescribed to tackle loneliness fuelled by coronavirus crisis

People will be advised to take a twirl or pick up the gardening gloves in a bid to combat loneliness and isolation fuelled by the coronavirus crisis.

The NHS is recruiting 500 more staff to work with family doctors as part of its social prescribing scheme aimed at improving people’s mental and physical health.

Since the roles were introduced in 2019, more than 1,200 social prescribing link workers have encouraged people to join sports teams, cooking classes or social clubs, or take up life skills courses.

Suggested activities include ballroom dancing and gardening.

NHS England hopes the additional roles will help primary care staff offer personalised support to 125,000 more people each year.

And, in total, it is hoped the link workers will help 400,000 people a year.

One person in five who visits a GP surgery does not have a medical problem but can benefit from meeting others or a healthier lifestyle, NHS England said.

Social prescribing can help a range of people, including those with long-term conditions, mental health struggles, isolation and complex social needs.

The link workers spend time with patients to understand the reasons for them seeking help.

Nikki Kanani, NHS medical director for primary care and a London GP, said: “Link workers have been front and centre of the NHS’s response to Covid-19, helping some of our most vulnerable people with everything from accessing vital medicine to relieving loneliness during the lockdown.

“And, as the NHS continues to support Covid patients while offering its usual world-class care, link workers will remain vital, helping to improve people’s quality of life and emotional wellbeing and keeping them healthy.”

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