An initiative to help people with cold-sensitive health conditions stay warm and well at home last winter was welcomed by 93% of health professionals involved recommending the service.
Warm Home Prescription (WHP) worked to find vulnerable people with health conditions made worse by the cold to give them support to keep their home at a healthy, warm temperature.
The trial supported vulnerable and low-income individuals in Aberdeen, Middlesbrough, Gloucestershire and London, and followed a 28-home pilot in Gloucestershire in 2021/22.
In addition to providing energy bill support, energy efficiency measures designed to reduce the energy it takes to heat a home were also explored.
During the scheme, which supported 823 patients and was delivered in partnership with the NHS and energy advice organisations, the health and wellbeing of individuals improved significantly owing to a warmer home, ESC said, with 79% of recipients finding it had a positive impact on their physical health, and 70% saying it improved their mental health.
The initiative was funded by BP and invented by Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) – an independent not-for-profit organisation set up to accelerate transformation in the UK’s energy system.
‘Living in a cold home can raise the risk of a number of health conditions, with an estimated 10,000 people dying each year across the UK as a result,’ ESC said.
In the trial, more than 4 out of 5 recipients heated their homes to warmer temperatures than in previous years, ESC said. More than half (51%) of WHP recipients heated their homes to a much warmer temperature than before, by at least 2 degrees, it added.
More than half of health professionals involved reported that they ‘could easily fit’ WHP into their workload and were able to find the time to identify potential recipients. ESC said that by prescribing warm homes, health professionals found they were able to signpost recipients to additional support services, such as energy advice that can provide tailored support. It also highlighted that 94% of health professionals involved were satisfied with the scheme.
ESC suggested that emerging evidence from the trial point to a reduction in the number of self-reported overnight stays in hospital, while recipients of the WHP also had a lower usage of primary care health services – such as GP appointments, out of hours appointments and prescriptions – last winter, compared to previous years.
Dr Rose Chard, fair future programme lead at Energy Systems Catapult, said: ‘We’ve seen improvements in physical and mental wellbeing, helping recipients to better enjoy their lives and ease the financial burden of a cold home.
‘Vulnerable and low-income individuals are also more willing to consider making energy efficiency upgrades to their homes to lock in heat and make comfort a long-term reality.’
She continued: ‘Scaling up the trial this year was about more than simply paying energy bills,’ Dr Chard said. ‘We wanted to explore an efficient way to target people whose health is at risk and provide the support that they need to achieve a warm home permanently.’