This week Conservative MP for Beaconsfield, Dominic Grieve, writes to Bucks Free Press readers…

Having made several visits to local nursing homes, to meet residents and hear about the care they receive, my thoughts turned to those older people who are living in their own homes but who may experience social isolation.

The Age UK organisation has done excellent work on this and their research (quoted on the NHS website) reveals that, in England, more than 2 million people over the age of 75 live alone.

More than 1 million older people say that they can go for a month or more without speaking to anyone.

There are many reasons why people may be socially isolated, which means there is no single solution – but we should all do what we can to reach out to make sure that elderly people in these circumstances do not feel abandoned. Social isolation can have an impact on general health.

Over Christmas and the New Year, there was a timely reminder from Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, England’s most senior doctor, that half a million elderly people feel lonelier on Christmas Day than on any other.

He urged everyone to think about what they could do to reach out to people in this situation.

It is something which everyone could do throughout the year. Voluntary organisations like Contact the Elderly and Age UK run schemes where individuals and families can invite an older person to join them for a meal or a tea party.

Several organisations also run telephone helplines as well as schemes where an older person can chat to a friendly volunteer over the phone. has information and links to a wide variety of organisations.

Since 2012 local commissioners have the responsibility of ensuring that our health services match the needs of the local population.

Local authorities are expected to identify areas where older people suffer most acutely from loneliness, to allow them to tackle the problem of social isolation and its harmful effects.

Part of this involves learning from examples of good practice about information, advice and befriending services.