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How technology can help combat loneliness in healthcare

12 May 2022

Loneliness can occur when someone is feeling socially isolated, excluded, or misunderstood. Unfortunately, loneliness is a huge public health challenge and is something that many people experience daily, including NHS staff, healthcare workers, and their patients.

Long-term loneliness can have a huge impact on physical and mental health, as well as increase the likelihood of early death by 26%. Therefore, it is vital that all healthcare workers and nurses, in all settings, can recognise loneliness, whether among their patients or co-workers and have the knowledge and resources to offer the best support and treatment possible.

In this blog, we will discuss loneliness among NHS staff and healthcare workers, how loneliness can impact patient safety, and how technology, like Radar Healthcare, can help in recognising and reporting incidents involving both patients and staff.

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Loneliness among NHS staff and healthcare workers

Although NHS workers and healthcare professionals rarely work in solitude, they are still at risk of experiencing loneliness.

Many healthcare organisations operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. This often results in a lot of staff working overtime with increasingly difficult workloads, which can lead to workforce burnout and, in some cases, a sense of disconnect from their personal lives.

Nurses, healthcare workers, and staff who work closely with patients are uniquely positioned to identify loneliness. Assessing someone’s mental state is an important part of nursing and caring – making it critical to address stress, loneliness, and mental well-being in workers to best support them in being happy and healthy, and thus providing the best patient care possible.

Social care, healthcare professionals, and care workers

Carers UK’s research reveals that 8 in 10 people caring have felt lonely or socially isolated. The report suggests that more action is required to support carers so that they can fulfill their responsibilities and duties to the best of their abilities, as well as to ensure that the industry maintains a sufficient amount of carers to keep up with the ever-growing aging population.

Care workers are often the people best placed to recognise and help those experiencing loneliness. The Governments’ Loneliness Annual Report 2020 encourages people to play their part in reducing loneliness by talking and seeking support where needed. Their ongoing plans are said to span out over the next 8 years.

NHS workers

The NHS Staff Survey revealed that 44% of workers reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months, rising 9.2% since 2019.

Equipping staff with the right software, training, and support is essential. The NHS is in a great position to work towards creating and enforcing a more positive work environment and support system for NHS workers, thanks to the development of the NHS People Promise scheme.

NHS People Promise

Source: Our NHS People Promise

The impact of loneliness on patient safety

Loneliness can mean different things to different people and is entirely subjective to the individual and their situation – and it can happen to anyone at any time.

The impact of loneliness on patient safety can be significant. Studies have shown that those who experience severe loneliness are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and have an increased risk of other life-changing and threatening diseases, such as depression, heart disease, and stroke.

Research also shows that elderly patients are more at risk of loneliness, due to having more health issues and fewer opportunities for social interactions.

Over 1 million people have people have reported feeling lonely all of the time – including those living in care or residential homes. Christina R Victor’s ‘Loneliness in Care Homes: A Neglected Area of Research?’ thesis revealed that rates of severe loneliness reported by living in a care home are more than twice those living within the wider community.

This, combined with loneliness within the NHS, indicates that organisations still have a long way to go until they can make significant advances in patient and employee safety. The question that healthcare organisations must now ask is, “What can be done to improve patient safety and reduce the risk of severe loneliness from occurring within your organisation?”

How Radar Healthcare can help  

Radar Healthcare’s quality and compliance software supports healthcare organisations to promote a balanced and positive approach to working.

Radar Healthcare isn’t just there for ‘E-zec,’ it is there for us all as individuals, as managers, as leaders, and to help improve how we work. Our colleagues are really seeing the benefits of using it now, because it has revolutionised quality, compliance and risk management for E-zec.

Anna Prowse, Head of Quality Compliance and Health and Safety at E-zec

Patient and resident satisfaction – more time caring

80% of care home residents believe that if they could spend more time socialising with their carers, their mental health problems could be alleviated however, many of them understand and see their strenuous workload as a social barrier.

Investing in reliable healthcare software reduces the amount of time spent on admin, aligns communication methods between all parties, and helps healthcare workers in managing and organising their tasks and data, giving them more time to spend with patients and residents.

Manage compliments, not just complaints

Boosting staff morale is essential for building a solid and happy workforce. Our software allows healthcare organisations to log or track all types of events, including compliments and positive feedback, to see the measurable impact an individual has on your team.

Many of our partners are experiencing the benefits of implementing this feature.

I believe this system allows us to really create the balance between compliments and complaints and let people know that they are doing a good job. That’s why we chose Radar Healthcare: because it allows us to be more balanced.

Paul Page, Patient Liaison & Risk Manager, Shropdoc

Workforce compliance: invest in your employees

Fewer than half (44%) of NHS staff in England report that their employer takes positive action on health and wellbeing. Maintaining and tracking records of workers’ training, appraisals, and compliance requirements actively shows that an organisation values and supports its workers.

In addition, storing this information in a single system ensures that your workforce is well informed, reduces errors and duplication, and encourages better communication.

Radar Healthcare supports patient safety by partnering with AvMA

As a member of Action against Medical Accidents, Radar Healthcare is committed to using our position as a provider of quality compliance and risk management software to improve standards for those affected by avoidable harm. We support AvMA’s Harmed Patient Pathway campaign, which aims to assist families affected by avoidable harm by providing NHS organisations and workers with tools, training, and best practices to help them provide the best level of care and support to those patients.

See more information on Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 here.

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