Heating On Prescription: Surviving The Energy Crisis

Jamey Heron-Waterhouse

NHS doctors have begun prescribing heating for ill patients, many of who cannot afford to pay for it. The Warm Home Prescription pilot paid to heat the homes of 28 low-income patients to avoid the hospital care if they become more ill. The trial has since been expanded to 1150 homes after its success. Impact’s Jamey Heron-Waterhouse reports.

A lack of heating in the home can cause all sort of issues such as mould due to condensation on the walls, or making you more susceptible to the common cold by weakening your immune system.  

According to the NHS, the people most likely to suffer due to cold weather in winter are: 

  • people aged 65 and older 
  • babies and children under the age of 5 
  • people on a low income (so cannot afford heating) 
  • people who have a long-term health condition 
  • people with a disability 
  • pregnant women 
  • people who have a mental health condition.

Gloucestershire hospitals spend £2.7 million on treating respiratory conditions every month 

The NHS website also states that you should be heating your home to about 18°C to keep healthy, but for many in the UK this has been impossible in the face of the energy crisis. It is the people on a low income who also have long term health conditions that the trial run by the Gloucester NHS services has helped, giving some people the opportunity to heat their homes and ease the symptoms of their long-term health conditions.  

The people with long term health conditions that are taking the brunt of the energy crisis this winter, according to Dr Hein Le Roux, a GP whose surgery helped run the trial, are people with ‘COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis’ as he described in an interview, as well as people suffering from arthritis.  

The trial stems from the fact that Gloucestershire hospitals spend £2.7million on treating respiratory conditions every month. So heating the houses of some of these people with lasting conditions can actually save more money, and keep these people out of the hospitals and warm in their homes.  

‘Imagine living in a country where they have to do a “trial” to find out that keeping seriously ill people warm in their own home is good for them’

Some believe that this is a rather obvious solution that should have been anticipated in the face of the energy crisis. One Twitter user commented; ‘Imagine living in a country where they have to do a “trial” to find out that keeping seriously ill people warm in their own home is good for them.’  

In a BBC article, Simon Jack lists ways in which the government could help in the face of this energy crisis. These ideas include: 

  • eradicating VAT of 5% on energy bills, however this would help to those that don’t necessarily need it and would not save that much money for those that do  
  • A temporary suspension on the additional levies on green policy bill funds, essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. This works logically, but may be unpopular 
  • Giving financial aid to the energy companies, which they can pay back when prices dip again 

Significantly, Simon Jack also suggests expanding the Warm Homes Discount, suggesting that it is in fact a viable option to create relief for those suffering from the energy crisis. Indeed, this seems a more effective method than the VAT cut of 5% which would provide unnecessary aid to those that don’t need it, the Warm Homes Discount will target those that need the financial aid.

However, this is perhaps a difficult task to carry out, as it works currently due to the NHS saving money on prescriptions and treatments by heating peoples’ homes, meaning its cheaper to keep people warm than treat their conditions that have worsened in the cold. This may not be applicable, then, to low-income households that do not suffer from long term health conditions, as there is no profit to be gained for the NHS and the money would have to come from elsewhere.  

Jamey Heron-Waterhouse

Featured image courtesy of Mikhail Nilov via Pexels. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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