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26th November 2015

Tea with the Doctor

There’s been quite a lot of publicity recently about 7 day a week working in the NHS, and promoting the idea of being able to see your GP/doctor early in the morning or late in the evening. Is that the whole answer to providing an effective preventive health service?

I was encouraged a few weeks ago by reading an article about a project trying to reduce the number of times people were wanting to see their doctor. The project, which has been tried at a surgery in Liverpool, encourages elderly patients to visits the surgery for a cup of tea in the afternoon and to meet and chat with others. The project has so far reported good success and individual consultations with GPs are down in number.

The key to this, of course, is the issue of social isolation. What’s the connection? – it’s the link between mental and physical well-being. I’ve written in previous blogs as to how isolation can lead to depression, and how getting people to meet together can help prevent mental health problems. What’s particularly encouraging about this new initiative is that it is led by doctors.

Getting away from the medical model

You see the problem with a focus on more people seeing their GP when and as often as they want, is it promotes the focus on a medical model as the only way to deal with so many problems. That’s not to dismiss the importance of being able to access a GP when a problem needs assessing, but an over-reliance on a medical model means we might not get to the root of the problem. Think of a whole range of physical problems, not being able to sleep, loss of appetite, feeling tired all the time, stomach churning – all of these might have physical causes, but equally their root may be in the mental and emotional well-being of the person.

The consequences of isolation

So back to isolation and loneliness. It’s obvious to think about the consequences of how this can have a spiralling effect on someone’s physical health. Loneliness leads to feeling down, that leads to low self-esteem and that leads to not feeling you want to care for yourself, or eat properly. Then follows effects on the person’s physical health. So let’s combat the loneliness! The charity Contact the Elderly are now encouraging the setting up of more tea parties. Are they doing this kind of thing in your area? Have a look at their website at

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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