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Housing group teams up with NHS to launch 'Boiler on Prescription' pilot

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Housing group teams up with NHS to launch 'Boiler on Prescription' pilot

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Health

Housing group teams up with NHS to launch 'Boiler on Prescription' pilot Housing group teams up with NHS to launch 'Boiler on Prescription' pilot

Gentoo Group is working with the NHS on a pilot designed to help GPs ‘Prescribe a Boiler’ to their patients.

Through the innovative project the North East housing group has carried out energy efficiency improvements, in an effort to prove 'warm homes equal healthy people', opening the door for future pilots.

Gentoo has been working in partnership with various North East Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) with the pilot creating a framework where a GP can prescribe a suite of home improvements, free of charge, to patients who have medical conditions exacerbated by cold, damp homes.

It is hoped that by improving the home, the patient will be able to live in increased comfort, decreasing the need for medical interventions and therefore reducing repeat GP and hospital appointments. This is part of Gentoo’s approach to create sustainable Art of Living ventures that enhance health and wellbeing.

In January 2014, the first pilot, funded by Sunderland CCG, included six Sunderland households - not Gentoo customers - identified by their local GP as suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) a serious respiratory condition made worse by living in cold homes.

Working with the patient, a specialised team from Gentoo carried out an energy efficiency assessment on the property to see what improvements could be made, including: replacing single glazed windows with double glazing; installing energy efficient boilers; loft and cavity insulation; external wall insulation; internal wall Insulation; and draught-proofing. Gentoo carried out the necessary improvements and continue to monitor the environmental improvements to the home, while the patients’ GP measures any possible improvements in health.

The Sunderland pilot identified before the project, in the six months prior to their homes being improved, the six patients involved had 63 interactions with the NHS, three of those were emergency admissions. The average spend on energy efficient improvements to homes in the trial is £5,000; each single emergency admission to hospital costs £2500. It is also expected to generate a reduction in visits to GPs, walk in centers and A&E along with a reduction in prescription cost.

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.

“Improving the Art of Living is at the heart of everything we do at Gentoo and wellbeing is core to this. We aim to help people feel comfortable in their homes. Improvements to a person’s health cannot be measured overnight, however we are committed to the long-term support of this project and are happy to report people are already sharing with us improvements to their general wellbeing. We hope the savings made to the NHS will enable us to increase the scale of this pioneering project and improve even more lives.”

One of the people to benefit from the 'Boiler on Prescription' pilot was 77-year-old Herbie Harris (pictured). The former electrician lives in Sunderland with his wife June, 75, and suffers from COPD as well as other serious medical conditions.

Mr Harris said: “We’ve had new windows, two new doors and a new boiler. Previous to the pilot happening we were all double glazed but we put it in 30 years ago when we bought the house. We have noticed a big difference since the new glazing was put in. The house is now keeping its heat a whole lot better, we feel warmer and more comfortable in our own home. In general, we have a very comfortable home and hopefully it’ll reduce the bills and make a difference to my health.”

Mrs Harris said: “We’ve worked all our lives so this has been a very welcome surprise. My husband is always cold and used to sit with extra jumpers on but now he is taking his jumpers off. I am his nurse during the night and we used to keep the heating on low to keep the chill off the bedroom. Now we don’t know how to do that. We’re happier in ourselves and know we are not going to be half froze. It’s less worry.”

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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