Loneliness is a significant issue in the UK and can negatively impact mental and physical health.
It is also a common cause of people visiting their GP and using other health services.
The training, delivered by NHS Property Services, began in Stockport in September 2022 and expanded nationwide in October and November 2022, reaching almost 400 NHSPS receptionists.
Since then, each colleague who completed the course has received a CTEL-approved certificate and a “Here to Talk” badge so patients and visitors know the receptionists are there to listen and talk to. Leaflets and posters are also available in NHSPS-run health centres and clinics to help support patients experiencing loneliness or needing someone to talk to.
Carmel Scott, a receptionist from Levenshulme Health Centre in Manchester who attended the training, said: “I’ve seen first-hand the noticeable increase in the number of people suffering from loneliness, so this training is valuable in equipping my colleagues and me with the skills needed to help these people more effectively.
“The fact that NHSPS is one of the first organisations to provide this type of training makes me immensely proud to work here. I look forward to seeing how initiatives like this can enable the NHS to provide better care.”
Jon Wood, Training and Digital Learning Manager at NHSPS, said: “One year on, and we continue to support the NHS in creating healthier communities, including tackling loneliness. Our receptionists are the first port of call for people accessing medical services and are therefore in a prime position to make a difference.
“By equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to identify and support patients experiencing loneliness, the initiative can improve the health and wellbeing of countless people across the country.”
Mhairi Grant of the Campaign to End Loneliness commented that, a year on, the training results are clear: “The receptionists we worked with were a really engaged group and agreed they had learnt a lot from the course.
“We asked them a few months after they did the course what difference it made. All of them agreed that it had helped them in their work or day-to-day life. They felt more confident talking to patients about loneliness.
“Some created new notice boards with information and resources for tackling loneliness. Others said they understood their own feelings of loneliness and were more able to help colleagues. Receptionists also valued the opportunity to come together and learn more about an important topic.”