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.’