From an article in Resurgence magazine
A “compassionate community” scheme in Frome in Somerset aimed at tackling the connection between loneliness and ill health has helped cut emergency hospital admissions in its area by 17%, official figures reveal.
The Compassionate Frome project began in 2014 when the town’s medical practice saw the need to rethink the way it considered the nature of illness. The rethink was prompted by concern for people who presented at surgeries with no clearly defined medical condition yet who evidently needed care and attention, and also by the number of patients who occupied hospital beds only for want of more appropriate means of tending to their welfare.
By interlinking the health centre, the community hospital and social services with care provision available from local charities and other groups, and by then recruiting a growing network of individual volunteers, Compassionate Frome has devised a model that has significantly lowered emergency admissions to hospital. These care services range from attending to someone’s physical and emotional needs to assisting with the shopping, walking the dog or helping someone attend a confidence-boosting activity such as the local choir.
The scheme carries considerable implications for ways in which the creative power of compassion might be applied to the enrichment of community life across wider society.
First they identify people most in need of support, and they offer a one-to-one service where people can identify their needs. These needs are matched to services provided in the directory, with new groups set up where there are gaps.
To date there are nearly 400 groups and organisations offering support, advice, companionship and creative activity. Through the project, GP services integrate the links with the community they serve in their daily work, and are able to reconnect people into the community in which they live.
Many older or retired people are isolated, and uninspired. Chronic loneliness increases the risk of early death by more than 20% but these days increasing numbers of otherwise healthy people also suffer from a devastating sense of loneliness and a consequent loss of self-esteem.
Organisers of the project are planning to roll it out in areas across Somerset and introduce the model in Wales.
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