NHS to Fund Alternative Therapies to Combat Loneliness
The NHS has been given permission by the UK government to prescribe social activities such as dancing, walks in nature and music events. By 2023, all British GPs will be able to refer patients suffering from loneliness to community activities in the hope that it will encourage social interaction (GOV, 2018).
Since June, the government has pledged almost £22m ($28.6m) to develop community spaces and support local charities in facilitating 'social prescribing' (GOV, 2018). The government's strategy recognises the therapeutic power of community and sensory experiences, and hopes to utilise these to help reduce the NHS' reliance on medication for social illnesses. Walking, dancing and classes are some of the social activities that will be prescribed, chosen for their beneficial effects on the body and mind.
Additionally, new health secretary Matt Hancock has advocated for music to be prescribed, in the form of playlists and trips to live music events, to supplement the medical treatment of conditions such as dementia. Stylus reported on music as an alternative dementia therapy in a recent post on The Brief.
Last month, the UK government published its first loneliness strategy, following the appointment of an inaugural minister for loneliness in January this year. A recent study by the Office of National Statistics revealed that 5% of adults in England feel lonely "often" or "always" (ONS, 2018). The same research showed that those who suffer from poor health were almost five times more likely to suffer from loneliness.
The UK government's new strategy opens up opportunities for both business and patients to explore holistic wellness by tapping into the senses. See our Spotlight Trend The Sensory Opportunity to explore alternative sensory therapies.