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I write in relation to figures ­released this week which ­unveiled the impact that being released from hospital without adequate support is having on our older population.

A report to mark the launch of the Let’s End Going Home Alone campaign by the Royal Voluntary Services charity found that nearly 200,000 people aged 75 and over in Britain returned home from hospital without the support they needed in the past five years.

People are having to stay in hospital when they don’t need to – this not only dents the ­individual’s quality of life but also places a huge strain on the NHS. Those going home without adequate support are twice as likely to be re-admitted within three months.

There is a huge challenge for social work and support services to ensure people can continue living in their own homes or in a sheltered housing or care home complex. A joined-up approach is needed and the importance of social contact must be considered in this mix. Loneliness is a major issue for many older people. A report last year (Campaign to End Loneliness) found almost half of people aged 80 and over felt lonely sometimes and this can damage their health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; one in ten patients visit their GP due to loneliness.

Our charity has hundreds of volunteers who spend time with older people throughout Scotland. Our monthly afternoon tea parties offer a social lifeline for those aged 75 and over.

What may seem a light-hearted activity has an enormous impact on our guests, giving them the chance to enjoy time with people their own age and younger volunteers. Some people’s only contact is over the phone or with healthcare professionals.

We urge social and healthcare professionals, family members and friends, to consider the ­social needs of older people as part of promoting and developing a healthy and happy lifestyle. Referring people to charities such as ours can bring very positive results in such a simple way.

Our volunteers and guests develop strong relationships which go beyond the regular monthly outings which help to provide a support network and give additional, informal monitoring of the person’s welfare.

Valerie Crookston

Contact the Elderly