Warm Home prescription pilot service pays energy bills for the vulnerable this winter.
A non-profit organization, Energy Systems Catapult has been working with a select number of NHS regions to pilot a new service called the Warm Home prescription.
Aberdeenshire and Tees Valley are the two areas taking part this winter. Eligible people will be contacted directly by their local NHS and will be given help within two weeks.
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The service pays the energy bills of the vulnerable who cannot afford to heat their homes to reduce the risk of them becoming ill and needing costly care.
This could save the NHS money in avoiding care costs and relieve service pressures.
Respiratory disease affects one in five people in the UK and is the third biggest cause of death after cardiovascular disease.
Every winter, GP surgeries and hospitals see an increase in visits from people with respiratory conditions as they can be particularly susceptible to cold weather.
Dr Matt Lipson, consumer lead at Energy Systems Catapult said: ‘It costs the NHS over £860 million each year and causes 10,000 deaths every winter. And it’s set to become an even bigger challenge this year as energy prices rise.’
Last winter a local trial of the scheme was carried out in Gloucestershire. People who received the prescription said they felt warmer, healthier and less stressed about bills and less likely to visit hospital or their GP.
Professor Sarah Scott, Executive Director at Gloucestershire County Council said: ‘by coming together as one Gloucestershire health, care and voluntary sector partners to pool our resources and address fuel poverty in a joined-up way, we can support some of our most vulnerable residents.’
The UK government spends £2.5 billion annually to reduce fuel poverty, for example through the Warm Home discount and Winter Fuel payments.
However only 16% of fuel poor households actually access these funds.
This pilot could prove to be more cost-effective than paying care costs as it may reduce the number of vulnerable people seeking medical help, as well as helping low-income households during a cost-of-living crisis.