Patients with certain conditions are being prescribed heating under a new trial across the UK that is now being expanded in the hopes of keeping down the costs of hospital admissions over the winter. The “Warm Home Prescription” trial involved paying the heating bills for 28 patients with medical conditions worsened by colder weather.
The trial patients were identified as belonging to low-income households.
Hailed as a “mind-blowing” success, the pilot will now be rolled out further across Gloucestershire, Aberdeenshire and Teesside.
It will now cover 1,150 homes within these counties.
Energy costs and heating bills have featured among the most prominent concerns for UK households ahead of the winter months.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine got underway in February, energy bills have spiked over worries about gas supplies previously obtained from Moscow.
Michelle Davis, one of the 28 patients involved in the pilot, described the change as “mind-blowing”, adding that not having to worry about the cost of energy bills made a huge difference not only to her, but the rest of her family.
Ms Davis, who suffers from arthritis and a pulmonary condition, recalled how her “joints ache” and her bones “are like hot pokers” in colder temperatures.
Taking part in the Gloucestershire pilot, Ms Davis highlighted the difference between the winter of 2020, and the period from December 2021 and March 2022, when her energy bills were paid for.
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Research conducted prior to the current cost of living crisis estimated that, on average, 9,700 deaths could be attributed to living in a cold home.
Dr Matt Lipson, of the organisation behind the pilot, Energy Systems Catapult, commented: “If we buy the energy people need but can’t afford, they can keep warm at home and stay out of hospital.”
He added: “That would target support to where it’s needed, save money overall and take pressure off the health service.”
Dr Lipson also painted a picture of the feedback from NHS professionals, who were seeing very quick improvements in the health of their patients.
He said: “The NHS were telling us they were seeing a benefit much more quickly than pills and potions.
“It was taking days, not weeks and months.”