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NHS Property Services and The Silver Line join forces in new anti-loneliness partnership

NHS Property Services and The Silver Line are delighted to announce the launch of an innovative new partnership to tackle loneliness. This will start in time for Christmas with the launch of a pop-up helpline in Stockport for older people in need of company, friendship, and advice.

Founded by Dame Esther Rantzen in 2013, The Silver Line is the only national 24/7 helpline for lonely older people. It is free and confidential, and receives over 10,000 calls a week from older people across the UK, most of whom have no-one else to speak to. The demand for its service is such that only three calls in four can be answered.

The innovative scheme will help manage this demand. NHSPS is donating space in our buildings to set up pop-up helplines which will be operated by our own staff who will be volunteering in their own time for The Silver Line.

The first of these mini-helplines opened at our call centre in Regent House, Stockport on Tuesday 18 December, just in time for Christmas. This is one of the most difficult times of the year for older people on their own. Last year on Christmas Day The Silver Line spoke to around 2,200 older people, well above the normal number of calls it usually gets in a day (1,500).

The plan is to then roll-out these pop-up helplines in NHS Property Services buildings across the country, with our staff volunteering too. The aim is to open up volunteering opportunities to the public more widely as the partnership expands. NHS Property Services wants to make a positive difference in the local communities it serves by using its space, expertise, and resources to support others in their health and wellbeing.

To take part the volunteers from NHS Property Services undertook an intensive full-day training course with The Silver Line trainers to equip them to take calls.

There is increasing awareness of loneliness as a public health issue. Research shows loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Since its national launch, The Silver Line Helpline has received over 2 million calls. Now over 3,000 volunteer Silver Line Friends make regular weekly friendship calls to older people. Crucially, 75% of its calls are received when other services are closed. This partnership will help manage the demand in evenings, the busiest time of day for the helpline.

Sophie Andrews, Chief Executive of The Silver Line, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with NHS Property Services in this innovative scheme, and I’m grateful to the staff who are giving up their time to help lonely older people. It’s really important to have initiatives like this up and running before Christmas, as it is the loneliest time of the year for many older people. Most of our calls are received when other services are shut. We are increasingly becoming an out-of-hours social care service. We need more volunteers to come forward from across the country as it will allow us to answer more calls - we are only able to answer three in every four calls at present.”

Elaine Hewitt, Chief Executive Officer, at NHS Property Services said: “Loneliness is an increasing issue as our country’s population ages, and this is especially the case at Christmas. As part of NHS Property Service’s work to transform the NHS estate, we are looking to make better use of our facilities. Working with The Silver Line is a fantastic way to demonstrate how a big difference can be made by a small number of wonderful volunteers willing to take the time to help lonely older people particularly in the run up to Christmas and beyond.”

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Care said: “Loneliness is detrimental to our health and happiness, and these feelings of isolation can be especially painful over the Christmas period. It’s fantastic therefore that NHS Property Services (NHSPS) is making use of existing space on the NHS estate to enable The Silver Line helpline to reach more people over the festive season.

“With the help of dedicated volunteers from NHS Property Services and throughout the country, The Silver Line provides an invaluable service and advice for vulnerable older people.”