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'Boilers on prescription' scheme cut GP visits by 60%

A local scheme that saw GPs ‘prescribing’ new boilers for people living in cold homes has seen GP appointments drop by 60%.

The Sunderland trial, which focused on patients with respiratory conditions, also saw A&E attendances drop by 30% among participants, while emergency admissions reduced by 25%.

Under the scheme, patients with conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) whose condition was deemed to be exacerbated by cold, received energy efficiency improvements to their homes, such as double glazing, new boilers and insulation, totalling on average £5,000 per property.

A spokesperson for housing firm Gentoo, which has been running the ‘Boilers on Prescription’ project alongside NHS Sunderland CCG said: ‘It would appear that the patients’ ability to self-manage their conditions has increased, which has reduced the number of appointments they have needed at their local GP practice.’

The scheme, which was the first of its kind, was launched in 2013 by Liberal Democrat secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey and data have been collected from the trial for the past 18 months.

In March 2015, the then-Coalition Government announced £3 million in funding for a national ‘Boilers on Prescription’ programme to be rolled out across the UK.

Similar schemes have since been launched other parts of the UK, including Oldham, Edinburgh, Dorset, Cornwall and Derbyshire.

Despite its success, the scheme in Sunderland is coming to an end as it has not received further funding beyond the trial period from the current Government.

Tim Ballard, vice-chair of the RCGP, said: ‘A growing body of evidence supports claims that energy efficiency measures have positive impacts on the health of some of the most vulnerable of our patients.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • Reversion to mean?

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  • Why do GPs need to be involved with this at all?

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  • Surely all the GPs need to do is provide a register of the patients who could be eligible, and let some 'boiler nurse' go do the legwork?

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  • Pulse, you have been rumbled. We are all wise to the annual April fool's story so you have opted for a series of factitious stories in the weeks running up to 1st April.
    This seems to have fooled quite a few of your readers... it is a joke isn't it??

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  • WTF?! General practice is a joke!

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  • Why why why does a qualified gp need to get involved with this rubbish????
    Are they even being paid to do this?????

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  • Absolutely correct - what have GPs got to do with this?
    If Gentoo (interesting name in view of the usual environments for penguins) is a Housing Association - why is it allowed to have sub-standard heating arrangements in their properties? I bet they are delighted to have NHS money to upgrade their housing stock.
    Plus how many patients? How many controls? (I'm told it is less than 8 in each category). Who did the statistical analysis?

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  • I believe practice involvement has mostly been in identifying potential patients and passing on Gentoo's details. If it really did reduce GP attendances this would be worth it without payment. However I understand that there were very small samples and haven't seen anything to suggest there was a proper control group so reversion to the mean could be a real factor.

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  • How can there be a proper control group?
    Is there a group of patients with Chronic Disease who are knowingly being left with inadequate/poor/no heating just to ensure there will be comparators?
    Where is the ethical consideration? Has there even been to an ethics committee for ethical consideration - and what were the criteria and who developed those criteria?
    We all know that housing conditions affect health/morbidity/mortality. Bur this looks like an ill-conceived experiment with poor people and an investment in sub-standard housing of a Housing Association using NHS money.
    Finally, if the results really are cost effective then when is it going national?

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