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Dropping in for a cuppa could sometimes be better than a formal care visit, says health minister Norman Lamb.

PUBLISHED: 10:49 09 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:57 09 June 2014

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

The companionship of a cup of tea or help with a grocery shop could be better than a formal care visit, health minister Norman Lamb has said, as he made a rallying call for us all to help lonely neighbours.

The care minister, who is also a Norfolk MP, said loneliness desperately needed to be tackled, suggesting we were inadvertently neglecting people who live on our streets who may not see others from day to day, or even week to week.

In an article about his experience of volunteering, he made a plea for us all to get involved.

His comments have attracted critics who said more needed to be done by central government to support elderly people, and it could not be done by volunteers alone.

Denise Burke, director of the website Good Care Guide and United for All Ages, said: “Social isolation and loneliness amongst older people means a poorer quality of life for many living in North Norfolk.”

The Labour parliamentary candidate in North Norfolk added: “We cannot care for vulnerable people on the cheap and continue to rely on the good nature of volunteers to care for our ever growing elderly population.”

Mr Lamb said loneliness could damage both mental and physical health, increasing the risk of heart disease, blood clots and dementia.

“Socially isolated adults are also more likely to end up in residential or nursing care earlier. We desperately need to address this. “We must not inadvertently neglect those who perhaps live on our street but who may not see anyone from day-to-day or from week-to-week.”

“Every one of us can take action to combat loneliness by volunteering. Helping a lonely older person could be something as simple as popping round for a cup of tea, or helping them to do their grocery shopping. There is no substitute for companionship and sometimes this sort of support is a better solution than a formal care visit.

“We can all take small steps to reach out to someone in our local community,” he added.

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