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  • Supporting people to contribute and do things they enjoy

Compassionate Neighbours Building compassionate communities to reduce loneliness


Compassionate Neighbours in East London @ St Joseph's Hospice

What is the problem this innovation solves?

Social isolation and loneliness at the end of life, either through age or illness. Many people do not have the family or social support in this difficult time.


Compassionate Neighbours provides community-led support for anyone who is living with a long term or terminal illness, is elderly or frail, socially isolated or nearing the end of life through age or illness. Compassionate Neighbours is a growing movement of people who support each other to promote compassion in their communities. They can be matched to someone living locally and provide social and emotional support to them by visiting regularly, offering friendship, emotional support and a listening ear, helping them to do the things they like doing and helping them stay connected to the community as well as family and friends.

Evidence base

Social isolation is a serious problem in East London: Loneliness and isolation increase unnecessary use of health and social care services - furthering demand for already stretched services, and a poor experience of service when the patient's social needs remain unmet.  "Individuals who are socially isolated are between two and five times more likely than those who have strong social ties to die prematurely". (Connect Hackney. Evidence of need 2014).

National studies outline the mortality associated with social isolation (1) and the important role it plays for someone with a long-term condition (2). A recent meta-analysis (3) concluded that engaging communities to support each other and discuss health issues leads to better outcomes than providing only professional support. 

  1. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk. Holt-Lunstad et al. 2011.
  2. The Contribution of Social Networks to the Health and Self-Management of Patients with Long-Term Conditions. Reeve et al. 2014.
  3. Community engagement to reduce inequalities in health. O'Mara -Eves. 2013

Expected impact

Increased wellbeing and social connectivity experienced by more than 300 people every year in East London.

Stage/spread (where it is/how much is there?)

Compassionate neighbours began at St Joseph’s Hospice in 2014, where it has been working across East London with a focus on Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Since 2017, Compassionate Neighbours has been working with 7 other hospices to test the replication of the model in other local contexts with a vision to roll the programme out nationally.

What would councils/health organisations/local areas need to do or have in place to enable it to happen?

Financial support to set up a local compassionate community and coordinator. Promotion of the project locally to GPs, hospitals, social prescribers, charities and community groups.

What would kill it?

A lack of support/promotion/funding at local authority level. A lack of understanding from partner organisations in terms of how the project works and what suitable referrals are. The model not being implemented correctly and adhering to the core principles of the compassionate community social movement.

Where to go for more information