NHS home for new national charity

Esther Rantzen

by Deborah Prince

A new charity, launched by television personality Esther Rantzen, has moved into premises owned by NHS Property Services.

The Silver Line charity – which provides a phone support service for lonely older people – has taken space in the former Wesham Hospital in Lancashire.

Supported by the Department of Health and the National Lottery, the charity’s call centre offers a one-stop telephone number, which callers can ring to speak to someone who understands their problems, provide information on a variety of subjects, or just be there for a chat. The project is hosted by FCMS, a company owned by local GPs, which has taken out a two-year lease for a large area in the building (190sq metres) which closed as a hospital in 2010.

The building was selected because of its open plan arrangement, IT facilities and access to the road and rail networks.

Eighty local people have been recruited to provide the 24-hour phone service, taking their first calls on 25 November. The charity – the first of its kind working on a national scale – also provides signposting to link people to various services that exist around the country and a telephone befriending scheme that matches callers with a Silver Line Friend and offers a weekly telephone call.

Esther Rantzen, CBE, The Silver Line’s Chair, said: “Millions of older people are lonely some or all of the time, but the loneliness carries a stigma which makes it impossible for them to ask for help. They have too much pride, and they do not want to be become a burden. At The Silver Line, we believe older people have a great deal to offer, and deserve respect, and we have proved during our pilots that by offering information and friendship, we can support older people, and lift their confidence and self-esteem.”