A new quality standard from NICE says that councils, housing organisations and the voluntary sector should identify those in need of community activities, not general practices.
NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, released the quality standard to call for vulnerable older people to be offered activities such as befriending programmes to prevent loneliness.
The third sector should ensure that those at risk are offered access to community-based and physical activity programmes to help maintain socialising for the sake of health and independence, it said.
The NICE committee recognised that it is “often difficult” for GPs to keep on top of which patients are in need of social assistance, and many practices do not employ a link worker.
However, it said that improving the mental wellbeing of older people through community activity may reduce, delay or avoid their use of health and social care services.
The quality standard focuses on people aged 65 or older who may be at risk of a decline for reasons including having lost a partner in the past two years, living alone, having to give up driving or having recently retired and more.
Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham said:“As a GP it is often difficult to identify older people at risk as you won’t necessarily know if they’ve had a bereavement or lost a job.
Professor Chew-Graham is the GP Principal in Manchester, a professor of general practice research at Keele University, and member of the quality standard advisory committee.
“It’s really tricky to keep up to date with what services are available in a local area, as they come and go. As a GP it is difficult to remember exactly which groups are available each day, so I’m not able to be specific in the suggestions I give to patients,” she said.