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What is the positive change that has emerged through new collaborations or partnerships during Covid-19 that your project is going to embed?

Islington GP Federation have fostered good working relationships with third sector organisations during Covid-19. We have rolled out borough-wide oxygen saturation probe delivery service using a bike social enterprise and a third sector organisation to deliver/collect probes, and we are working to deliver mass flu vaccination clinics using local volunteers acting as stewards.

We believe that the Federation is well-placed to broker relationships between third sector organisations and local GP practices enabling collaboration and partnerships to the benefit of local residents, we have lots of positive feedback about the oxygen saturation probe service from all stakeholders. We have data that shows the delivery service was efficient and reliable, the volunteers were popular and this mechanism of equipment delivery was acceptable to patients.

What does your project aim to achieve?

Loneliness is well-recognised as being a huge problem in urban settings, 31% of Islington’s residents live alone. During the Covid-19 pandemic many day centres & community services have closed leaving many who relied on these for social contact bereft of opportunities to connect with others.

Digital inequalities are becoming more apparent as the Covid-19 pandemic has required more day-to-day activities to be delivered remotely. These inequalities are enhanced by lack of services for people with  disabilities, those with sensory impairment, non-English language speakers, and people who lack digital experience and confidence.

By providing virtual social gatherings to isolated people identified by a network of VCS partners we aim to offer regular moments of connection with other local people, from the comfort/safety of one’s own home. We hope to reduce feelings of loneliness and enhance quality of life, enable essential access to shopping and health services, whilst reducing inequalities to digital access.

How will the project be delivered?

We intend to work with Manor Garden Welfare Trust to develop opportunities for participants to learn how to use technology to connect with family and friends. We also aim to set up local virtual groups with themes (eg a music morning, current affairs discussion, chair-based exercise) and utilise volunteers to deliver hardware and demonstrate how to use it.

Volunteers will be buddied with a resident and offer in-depth support and guidance using a clear training pathway. Participants will be identified through local third sector organisations’ databases. Hardware purchased will be distributed to each individual for a taster period.

We are keen to collect demographic data for example, ethnicity, languages spoken, migrant or housing status, in order to help identify and target subsets of socially isolated people.

In order to measure impact we will use a score to measure levels of isolation and wellbeing, for example the ladder outcomes measuring system.

How is your project going to share learning?

We will be able to report on:

– The ability of residents to learn how to connect with peers online, using a buddying model with a trained volunteer, offering support over a short, fixed time period.

– Whether there is particular demand for specific themes of social gathering

– Whether there are any improvements to well-being or feelings of isolation amongst people undertaking virtual social gatherings

– Whether there is increased access of essential services online eg shopping, healthcare

We will endeavour to write a report on the pilot and evaluation which can be shared with organisational partners, as well as relevant healthcare and social care services. We also intend publicise activity as well as outcomes to our third sector partners as well as NHS stakeholders, using methods such as posters and presentations at key conferences, blogs and social media. In addition we hope to make this available to our wider Q Community.

How you can contribute

  • Collaborating & Networking - helping us to identify opportunities for collaboration and linking up ideas akin to ours so we can learn from each other
  • Challenge with compassion - a friendly and critical voice to challenge any assumptions or assertions and make this project more robust and rigorous
  • Champions - we would always welcome help with spreading the word and sharing any outcomes to ensure any positive findings have as far a reach as possible
  • Expertise - in supporting us to offer as polished, accessible and enabling product as possible, helping us to make sure we are able to identify the right cohort and measure the right things

Plan timeline

5 Oct 2020 Start of Cohort 2's digital taster month
30 Apr 2021 Project steering group to meet and finalise plan
22 May 2021 Participant engagement and co-production
10 Jun 2021 Baseline data collection, development of guidance & resources
30 Jun 2021 Start recruiting participants
29 Jul 2021 Volunteer training and session development
16 Aug 2021 Start of Cohort 1's digital taster month
20 Sep 2021 Data collection and refine model
1 Nov 2021 Data collection and refine model
29 Nov 2021 Start of Cohort 3's digital taster month
3 Jan 2022 Data collection of process and outcome measures
7 Feb 2022 Evaluation


  1. Hi. This is a good idea. Have you thought about which platform you will use? We tested a similar program for pregnant women who were at high risk of complications etc. We found that it works better if you use social media platforms that some might already be familiar with. Good luck


  2. Guest

    Jules Pflaum 1 year ago

    This is an interesting and practical idea, which would improve access to meaningful activities and social inclusion for an isolated population. Providing tablets and IT training will overcome some of the barriers people experience with getting online and sounds similar to the ‘Connecting Scotland’ programme, which is doing the same across Scotland, so may be worth following up to see their outcomes:

    The outcome measurement questions could be used alongside the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale to measure changes in both loneliness and wellbeing over time. I am affiliated with the bid related to improving access to primary & acute care for autistic people and we often consider how to overcome barriers to social inclusion. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Jules, that's really helpful!

  3. Hi. This sounds a great idea and it's good to see some feedback from others.  My colleague Pete and I are working with the Health Foundation to support the development of collaboration across members for Q Exchange.  There are a few community groups on Q that might be interested in your idea - Digital, Co-production, patient experience - to name a few. It might be worth posting in those groups to gain further feedback. Another link that might be helpful is with the team in Greenwich who hosted a Q visit on social prescribing (from Charlton Athletic FC). The visit is written up on the Q visit pages and may also provide some connections that are helpful to you. Good luck with your project! Best wishes, Emma

  4. At Whittington we have a large number of volunteers, many of whom have had to shield or restrict their movements during the pandemic. We have been looking to set up some form of virtual gathering, and also ways to ensure that our volunteers are still actively engaged with the Trust, even from a distance.

    We would be really keen to collaborate with you on this. Some of our volunteers may be keen to participate in the sessions, or others may be keen to act as volunteers.

    1. Hi Gillian, that sounds great. We'd be very happy to collaborate with you and your volunteers, it would be really good to be able to put this together in partnership with other local organisations.

  5. Hi Tamar and team,

    A fantastic project idea! I am currently working on a social prescribing evidence review with Public Health England, and came across this initiative that may be useful for you to explore:

    While the evaluation isn't very rigorous, page 51 onwards may help you to identify your target population through services other than GPs. Since those in the community who experience loneliness often also experience barriers to accessing to healthcare, it may mean that those you manage to reach through GP services are only a subset of your target population (most likely those on the less severe end of the loneliness spectrum). I wonder if the third-sector services you mentioned would be well-placed to assist with identification of your target population in addition to your strategy of identification through GP practices?

    One of the limitations to similar projects we came across in our evidence review was their lack of attention to reporting inequalities-related demographic information (e.g. ethnicity, languages spoken, migrant status, housing status), and we therefore had difficulties finding evidence for the success of similar interventions for specific vulnerable populations. Do you think there is an opportunity to complete this kind of data capture as part of your project?

    Good luck!


    1. Hi Tamar, no worries at all! Glad you found it helpful. I look forward to hearing about the project as it unfolds!

    2. Hi Claire, that article is so relevant and interesting, thank you. It has given me food for thought on how we could identify participants - we already have quite good relationships with a variety of community groups but this suggests we should cast our net wider, and we might not have considered that young people are worth targeting because they often have links with socially isolated others. Good to know about the paucity of demographic data in other publications, we can certainly aim to try to address inequalities within certain cohorts of the population and can aim to collect that data too. Thanks for your input, it is very much appreciated!

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