New call for warm home prescription to be extended

Left to Right: Matthew Cole, Chair of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Panel, Jillian Evans - Director of NHS Grampian Health Intelligence, Dr Rose Chard of Energy Systems Catapult and David Mackay of SCARF.

THE Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel is calling for the Warm Homes Prescription scheme to be rolled out to other areas of Scotland, following the success of a pilot programme in Aberdeen.

Speaking at a meeting with stakeholders in the city, the Panel Chair Matthew Cole said that the scheme set up by Energy Systems Catapult, had helped save lives and led to savings for the NHS.

The panel, which was set up to advise the Scottish Government on fuel poverty issues, urged policy makers to set up similar targeted schemes to help the many people who cannot afford to heat their homes, particularly in areas with significantly higher fuel poverty rates than the national average.  These include Na h-Eileanan Siar (61%), Highland (51%), Argyll and Bute (50%), Moray (49%), Dundee City (48%), Shetland Islands (48%) and Orkney Islands (47%).1

Cole said: “The Warm Homes Prescription scheme is a brilliant example of an innovative way to offer help to those most impacted by fuel poverty. 

“In 2020 an estimated 10,000 people, across the UK, died as a result of living in cold homes, which is a shocking statistic. Millions more with health conditions such as respiratory and cardio-vascular disease are at particular risk of harm from cold homes.

“More schemes like this are needed to help people who are struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis and crippling fuel bills.”

The Warm Homes Prescription (WHP) trial was introduced in 2022 by Energy Systems Catapult to more than 500 households in Aberdeen who were struggling to afford energy bills and living with severe health conditions made worse by the cold.

It was designed to allow vulnerable people to stay warm and well at home and out of hospital in winter. NHS teams, from NHS Grampian, identified eligible patients and contacted them to offer them a warm home prescription and put them in touch with local energy advisors, SCARF, who credited their account.

During the trial, which ran over two winters and also included households in Middlesborough, Gloucestershire and London, the health and wellbeing of individuals improved significantly owing to a warmer home according to independent research by Sheffield Hallam University.  

It showed that 79% of recipients found the trial had a positive impact on their physical health, while 70% said it had improved their mental health. Overall, 98% of WHP recipients would take part in the project again.

In addition, 76% of recipients reported that after WHP they were more likely to make improvements to their homes to make them more energy efficient and easier to heat.

Dr Rose Chard of Energy Systems Catapult said: “The findings are clear, when using the Warm Home Prescription, recipients stay warm, well, and out of hospital. We’ve designed a service that is proven to deliver a warm home to hundreds of households and improve people’s health and wellbeing. Nearly 500 households received energy credit in 2022/23 and over 50 of those homes have received energy improvements so that a warm home is cheaper and easier for them in the long term.

“We’re now engaging with a range of organisations in Scotland to help them scale this further and tailor delivery to the unique needs of Scottish households. We welcome the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel’s recommendation to adopt a cross-sector approach to deliver Warm Home Prescription across the country.

“Energy Systems Catapult is keen to also support innovation that enables vulnerable households to not only have a warmer but a more energy efficient home that contributes to Net Zero.”

The scheme is not only helping vulnerable people but it also has been hailed as a success by health care professionals. A total of 94% of healthcare professionals reported their satisfaction with the project with benefits cited including: reducing cost pressure on the NHS and freeing up beds in hospitals and reducing financial pressures for vulnerable patients.

Cole said: “Schemes like the Warm Homes Prescription are making a huge difference to people’s lives and are an example of the kind of innovative thinking needed to really tackle the issue head on.

“We are heartened to hear that a new Highland Energy Rebate campaign has been raised in the House of Commons by a cross party group of MPs asking for financial support for the residents of the Highlands and Islands to help with their energy costs. This would come either in the form of a percentage reduction in energy bills or through an annual payment. If this is introduced it will be another important step forward in the battle against fuel poverty.”

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