Student nurse hosts coffee mornings to combat loneliness

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By Rebecca Gilroy

A student nurse from Blackpool is going above and beyond to reduce social isolation in her local community by organising social coffee sessions.

Chloe Doherty, a second-year student at the University of Central Lancashire, was inspired to set up “Coffee and Chats” thanks to her placement in community care.

“The social isolation in Blackpool is really, really high”

Chloe Doherty

She told Nursing Times: “I really enjoyed my community placement, because I’ve never been out in the community before [and] I think it just opened my eyes up to what they run there.”

Ms Doherty has set up the social workshops in several locations and at different times of the day.

She said: “It’s open to anybody, whether it be a teenager or a 90 year-old-woman, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re getting [something] out of it.

“At first, I just thought of coffee mornings but then I thought people at work might be lonely,” she said.

“After they’ve finished their shift at work, if there’s nothing available for them then it kind of defeats the object a little bit, so I’ve done an evening [session].”

Ms Doherty reached out on Facebook about setting up a community event and since then she’s had “non-stop” messages, she told Nursing Times. 

Her goal is to reduce loneliness in Blackpool by 50% by the end of 2020, in line with the local council’s target.

“I did an assignment not long ago […] and I was looking at statistics and mental health and the social isolation in Blackpool is really, really high,” explained Ms Doherty.

“One of the NHS’s target goals with the council was to reduce social isolation so that was my aim, to try and bring something in and it might take two years or it might take five but it might build up a bit of a community again.”

“It might take two years or it might take five but it might build up a bit of a community again”

Chloe Doherty

The programme has partnered with Blackpool Victoria Hospital and several coffee shops are now involved.

Events also include day trips and movie nights with the Victoria Community Church – there are even some snooker evenings at a local pub.

As Ms Doherty is busy with placements and studies – she will enter her final year in March – she has not been able to attend the sessions yet, but feedback has been positive.

She said: “[Attendees are] looking forward to meeting me because I’m the one who has organised it, but I’ve taken all their contact details and emailed them after the session and just said, ‘sorry I couldn’t attend, hope it all went well, I’m available whenever you need me,’ and they’ve all replied saying how good it was and what a good idea.”

Social isolation is an issue dear to Ms Doherty’s heart and she has always wanted to work with people living with dementia.

In September, she was “highly commended” in the Unsung Hero award category from Lancashire Health for delivering a baby in a hospital car park with her colleagues.

With 20 people already attending her sessions, Ms Doherty is hopeful that the project can expand so she can get more involved.

You can donate to Ms Doherty’s fundraising page here and visit her website and Facebook page.