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GPs to start ‘prescribing’ boilers for patients in cold homes

GPs across England begin prescribing boilers, insulation and double glazing to fuel-poor patients whose condition is exacerbated by living in a cold home.

Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Davey is set to announce £3m funding to pave the ground for a scheme to run across England at a conference in London today.

Cold weather is thought to cost the NHS around £1.5bn a year, exacerbating conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, heart and lung disease, kidney disease and mental health problems.

The £3m will be used to build systems to help doctors decide whether patients qualify for home improvements. The trial scheme will build on 73 small pilots currently running around the country, including a programme in Sunderland that has cut GP and outpatient visits by a third.

Davey told the Guardian he has the support of the health secretary and the health budget would contribute to the national expansion of the programme on completion of a successful trial.

“We want to liberate health spending to deal with the root causes of ill health, not deal with the symptoms,” said Davey. “I’ve met Jeremy Hunt to talk about it, we’ve had a group of officials working across Whitehall. This is quite exciting stuff.”

Official figures show about 9,300 people died prematurely during the 2012-13 winter due to cold homes.

Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the RCPG, said: “The Royal College of GPs welcomes this new fuel poverty strategy. It marks an important turning point in acting on what we have known for some time: that cold homes contribute to the most vulnerable people being unhealthy and can even be lethal for them.

“The new strategy provides a long-term framework in which the health sector has a vital role to play, in partnership with government. The new funding for health-related pilot projects is especially needed and will help build the case for more investment to cut the cost of warmth and help reduce the burden of cold homes on the health service.”

(Image source: Liberal Democrats)

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