THREE quarters of family doctors in Scotland say they deal with at least one patient every day whose main problem is loneliness.

The Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland (RCGP Scotland) is calling for an end to 10-minute appointments so that doctors can spend longer getting to grips with the loneliness and isolation facing many patients.

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It is also seeking national public health campaign to raise awareness of the issue and the creation of a voluntary sector database which could match people to projects in their area to help reduce feelings of isolation.

One in four GPs in Scotland said they see between one and five patients every day who are visiting their GP mainly to talk to someone.

Evidence has shown that loneliness is as bad for health as obesity and it puts people at a 50 per cent increased risk of an early death compared to those with a good social life.

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RCGP Scotland is today launching an eight-point community action plan to help address the problem.

Dr Alasdair Forbes, RCGP Scotland’s Deputy Chair (Policy), said: “Loneliness has become an epidemic.

“GPs and their teams have a key role to play in identifying people who are chronically lonely or who are at risk of becoming lonely. All too often, GPs are the only human contact that chronically lonely patients have. These moments of meaningful connection matter, when someone asks, ‘What matters to you’ rather than simply, ‘What’s the matter with you’.

“As family doctors, we believe that caring for lonely and isolated people means listening to them and understanding their concerns. GPs need time to care.

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"That is why we’re calling for an end to ten-minute appointments, as we want GPs to be able to spend longer time with patients and get to know what really matters to them."