Patient FAQ : Asking about the wider determinants of health

Information for patients

Asking about circumstances that may affect your health

What will I be asked?

GP practices in North East London are taking part in an initiative to ask patients four
yes/no questions about their lives. You may be asked the questions by text
message, during a routine interaction with your practice, or when you first register.
The questions will ask about:

  • Problems with housing
  • Making ends meet
  • Loneliness
  • Understanding health information and advice

Why are you asking these questions?

Because some non-medical problems have a big impact on health. For example,
living somewhere that is cold and damp can cause respiratory problems and weaken
the immune system. Constantly worrying about money or feeling lonely can lead to
stress, anxiety, depression, and fewer opportunities for support. And people who find
it difficult to understand health advice might be unsure about how to take their
medications or may wait longer before seeking help.

By asking patients these questions, GPs will have a broader understanding of an
individual’s needs, allowing them to provide more personalised health advice during

What will the information be used for?

The yes/no responses will be accessible to doctors, nurses and other staff at your
GP practice, giving them a fuller picture of the circumstances that might be affecting
your health or treatment. The information will be visible in your health record so it
can be used to tailor recommendations during a consultation, or to signpost to
services within the community that could help to address the problems directly.

Where will my answers be stored?

The answers you provide to these questions are stored in your medical record. They
will not be seen by anyone who does not have permission to access your medical

Will the data be shared with anyone?

Your personal answers will not be shared with anyone who does not have
permission to access your medical record.
Data that does not identify individuals – for example, the number of people who are
lonely –, will be shared with local authorities and NHS commissioners so they can
anticipate demand for services and develop new initiatives targeted in the localities
that need them.
Find out more about how NHS data is used for health and care on the NHS website:

Do I have to answer the questions?

No, answering is completely voluntary