A General Practice Nurse Forum-hosted event at Congress 2018 highlighted how working in isolation can effect an individual’s emotional wellbeing and work performance. The event was attended by health care staff who work in isolation, such as care home staff, general practice nurses, community nurses, community mental health nurses and secondary care colleagues. Participants felt that workplace loneliness was prevalent and under recognised within the work environment, substantiating Relate’s 2014 survey which revealed that 42% of workers don’t have a single friend at the office. This is a serious cause for concern, considering that people in Britain work some of the longest hours in Europe.
Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to health. Lack of social connections can increase the likelihood of early death by 26%. That risk is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is higher than that caused by obesity and physical inactivity. Loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.
The Westminster Government launched the Prime Minister’s Loneliness Commission and strategy in October 2018. As part of the long-term plan, funding will be provided to connect patients to a variety of activities which aim to reduce demand on the NHS and improve patients’ quality of life. It is also suggested that the public health outcomes framework should include loneliness outcome measures.
The Scottish Government’s first national strategy to tackle loneliness and isolation, A connected Scotland, was published in December. The strategy includes examples of the important role nursing services can play in tackling loneliness and isolation. The RCN in Scotland responded to this consultation and the Minister for Mental Health is keen to continue working with the College on this issue.
According to the results of the Health Survey 2017-2018 in Northern Ireland, 20% of respondents showed signs of loneliness. The Public Health Agency is currently working on loneliness within the context of the regional dementia strategy.
The Welsh Assembly’s Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward, includes the commitment to develop a nationwide and cross-government strategy to address the issue of loneliness. It focuses on early intervention to prevent chronic loneliness, given its wider effects on health and wellbeing, and resulting pressure on the NHS and social care services. Loneliness is a wide-ranging topic that impacts all nursing staff regardless of geographical or clinical area. Loneliness at work is likely to affect social interaction, relationships and potentially our clinical care as well as mental health. It is possible that those who are lonely at work are more vulnerable to workforce pressures such as stress, ill health and potentially vulnerable to adverse behaviours.
This debate will consider how we can raise awareness of workplace loneliness and how we can positively impact our workplaces. Little has been discussed or researched around the impact of workforce loneliness amongst the nursing team and how this may potentially affect standards of care and patient safety. We propose that the RCN conducts further research in workplace loneliness.
Watch the debate again.
Main Hall, ACC Liverpool , Kings Dock , Liverpool Waterfront , Liverpool , L3 4FP
Submitted by the RCN Outer North West London Branch
Page last updated - 21/10/2019