Laura Sharman 20 May 2014

'Boiler on Prescription' pilot launched in Sunderland

A ‘Boiler on Prescription’ scheme to demonstrate the impact energy efficiency improvements can have on ill health has been launched by social business Gentoo Group.

The Sunderland pilot will create a framework for GPs to prescribe a range of free home improvements to help those who have medical conditions exacerbated by cold, damp homes.

As part of the scheme, six households who had been identified by their local GP as suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) had a free energy assessment on their home.

In the six months prior to the improvements, the patients had 63 interactions with the NHS, three of those were emergency admissions. The cost of each single emergency admission to hospital costs £2,500, while the average spend on energy efficient improvements to homes in the trial is £5,000.

Gentoo Group hopes the scheme will help reduce medical interventions and repeat GP and hospital appointments.

Director of Gentoo Green, Sally Hancox, said: ‘We are very excited to be working with our partners on this ground-breaking project. While conditions such as COPD can’t be cured, it is hoped improvements to people’s homes will not only improve quality of life and reduce the risk of fuel poverty, it may help manage the symptoms of COPD and result in less ongoing support from the NHS.’

Dr Nonnie Crawford, Sunderland’s director of public health, said: ‘We decided to fund the ‘Boiler on Prescription’ pilot because we believe it is an alternative approach to an ongoing problem. With Gentoo, we are hoping to establish the impacts a warm home has on patients who have conditions we know are exacerbated by living in a cold environment.

‘We want to enhance the quality of life for people with long-term conditions and prevent unnecessary and avoidable discomfort. Ensuring people have a positive experience of care, and caring for people in a safe environment, protecting them from avoidable harm is high on our priorities. If a patient can heat their home more effectively, does that allow them to manage their condition better? This trial will let us find that out.’

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