Improving social housing could considerably reduce the number of emergency hospital admissions, according to a new study commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research.
Researchers at Swansea University found that upgrades to council housing could reduce the number of preventable conditions and hope these changes could relieve the pressure faced by the NHS.
‘Our findings showed that housing upgrades could reduce the strain on the NHS and release beds for planned admissions,’ said Dr Sarah Rogers, Professor at Swansea University Medical School, who led the study.
A 2012 study by charity Age UK found that cold homes cost the NHS an extra £1.36 billion a year, as the cold caused more cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, particularly in older people.
After improvements were made to 9,000 council homes in Carmarthenshire, South Wales over the course of nine years, hospitals admissions for tenants in those homes, aged over 60, were found to drop by almost 40 percent.
‘We have already used the heath evaluation results and study team recommendations to update our development plans,’ said Cllr Linda Evans, Carmarthenshire County Council executive board member for housing.
‘Making small changes in housing policy improves health, which also carries social, economic and environmental benefits for all.’
The number of patients of all ages receiving prescribed asthma medications and attending the GP also dropped.
The university now hopes this new research can be applied elsewhere in the UK to significantly reduce the number of hospital admissions.
“NIHR is always keen to fund research into key determinants of health, such as housing,’ said Dr Helen Walters, NIHR clinical advisor and consultant in public health medicine.
‘These are important results that can inform and help to support effective and efficient decision making for those in local government.’