Home heating is being prescribed to patients in England as part of an experimental trial.
The Warm Home Prescription pilot paid to help heat the homes of 28 low-income patients with conditions that get worse in the colder weather in a bid to avoid the costs of hospital care if they became sicker.
This first trial ran from December 2021 to March 2022. During the same period, over 2,000 people with similar conditions fell ill and were admitted to hospital for emergency treatment, costing the NHS over £6m.
Research conducted by the BRE Group in 2021 found that cold homes are responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people annually and cost the NHS in England around £860m.
It is feared both figures could rise considerably in the coming months because of the current cost of living crisis.
Energy costs have reached record highs in the UK as supplies of Russian gas have been reduced due to the war in Ukraine. Despite moves by the government to cap prices, bills will still rise to an average of £3,000 from April of next year.
The pilot scheme achieved such positive results, that it’s now being expanded to 150 households in NHS Gloucestershire’s area, plus about 1,000 in Aberdeen and Teesside.
Energy Systems Catapult is the organisation behind the initiative. With the backing of GP surgeries and a local energy charity called Severn Wye, NHS social prescribers, who visit those with long-term conditions in their homes, were able to identify people who would benefit from the initiative.
Dr Matt Lipson who helped design the programme described it as a ‘no-brainer’ for the health service.
“If we buy the energy people need but can’t afford, they can keep warm at home and stay out of hospital,” he said.
“That would target support to where it’s needed, save money overall and take pressure off the health service.
“The NHS were telling us they were seeing a benefit much more quickly than pills and potions.”
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