In the past week we have seen the Government launch of two new
strategies : one on loneliness
and the other on digital
data and technology in health and care.
We know loneliness is very different to being alone. Social
connections as we know are very personal. Enabling the stigma of loneliness to
be talked about and addressed is a government ambition.
Loneliness doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age.
Meaningful relationships are fundamental to our wellbeing and take us beyond
transactional conversations to meaningful interactions even if they are
momentary. Being connected and staying connected has changed significantly over
Many people go for days without seeing their neighbours or their
family. There is an increasing reliance upon technology for our communications,
however whilst it enables and speeds up communication, the unintended
consequence can mean it diminishes human contact.
The acknowledgement in the Loneliness Strategy states how
important new ways of connecting and communicating are:
“Of course, loneliness isn’t new, but the way our society
works is changing rapidly. This brings great opportunities – including new ways
of connecting and communicating with others. But it also means it’s now
possible to spend a day working, shopping, travelling, interacting with
business and with public services, without speaking to another human being. And
for some people that can be repeated day after day. So as we continue to make
the most of new technologies, ways of working and delivering services, we need
to plan for connection and design in moments of human contact.”
The Loneliness Strategy has been published to complement the
wider ambitions of the Civil Society Strategy (click
here to read the strategy), however, I would have expected to see a more cohesive
approach between the published strategies (ever the optimist!).
With a new report from Abbeyfield Society highlighting the benefits
of volunteering for older people, and a recent
article calling for more volunteers from ethnic backgrounds to tackle
loneliness, in order to support and enable the physical human relational
connections people need to thrive, changes need to occur within organisations, both
within the infrastructure and within our culture.
Policy and strategic intent need to move beyond words into
The human element should not be overlooked in the Digital
Data and Technology strategy. At its heart there are four guiding principles:
And we need to draw on emerging thinking on designing technology
safely, ethically and effectively for the values and interests of civil
Ask what the user need is
Every service must be designed around user needs, whether
the needs of the public, clinicians or other staff.
Services designed around users
and their needs:
more likely to be used
more people get the right outcome for them – and so achieve their intent
less to operate by reducing time and money spent on resolving problems
Technology clearly has a large part of play it has become an
integral part of the way we live our lives.
We also know it does not and cannot replace the need for
human relationships and connectivity.
The lack of read across between the two publications is
One can enable the other and free up more time within the
health and care context for meaningful interaction and relationships.
Interoperability of technology is a must and will achieve
greater efficiencies in the long term but this should not be at the expense of
people having meaningful human contact on their terms and with the people they
choose to connect with.
The systems we all have to use should enable, not disable