Warm Home Prescription - Pilot report

Warm Home Prescription is a new service first piloted by Energy Systems Catapult and Gloucestershire NHS, aiming to help vulnerable people with both low incomes and existing cold-sensitive health conditions, to keep well in their homes, reduce hospital admissions and save NHS costs.

Millions of people in the UK have health conditions – such as respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses – that are made worse by living in a cold home. With over 10,000 people dying each year in England and Wales – as a result of living in cold homes.

The pilot study ran from December 2021 to March 2022, where 28 people in Gloucestershire with health conditions made worse by living in a cold home were ‘prescribed’ warmth to reduce the risk that the cold would cause harm and hospitalisation. During the same period, over 2,000 people with similar conditions fell ill and were admitted to hospital for emergency treatment, costing the NHS over £6m and straining front line staff dealing with the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

How it worked?

Health staff (e.g. social prescribers) identified patients with chronic conditions adversely affected by cold homes.

Patients were eligible if they:

  1. Had been diagnosed with a relevant health condition by health teams (e.g. COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis).
  2. Were under 60 and received free NHS prescriptions, or were over 60 and struggled to pay their heating bill.

Local energy charity, Severn Wye Energy, visited each home within 5 working days to:

  • Check the heating system was working
  • Show patients how to use their controls
  • Pay for energy (e.g. call energy supplier to add credit to account)
  • Upgrade heating controls (if needed)
  • Offer insulation and support through the Warm and Well programme.

Key points

The Warm Home Prescription pilot in Gloucestershire ran successfully from December 2021 to March 2022 with NONE of the 28 participants being hospitalised.

Insights to learn from:

  1. GPs were too busy to prescribe patients. Others were far better placed.
  2. NHS brand and follow-ups gave patients more confidence that the service was legitimate and increased temperature compliance.
  3. Remote prescriptions were possible when COVID prevented home visits.
  4. Energy supplier ‘hot-lines’ sped up service delivery.
  5. NHS staff identified other health conditions the service would alleviate.

Challenges to solve

  1. Improve ‘compliance’ so all patients live at safe temperatures levels.
  2. Some patients did not give meter readings (e.g. some patients couldn’t read their meter, others ignored contact).
  3. Make sure all patients know when the service started (some did not).
  4. Design low carbon solutions for patients on LPG or coal.
  5. Make sure patients use pre-payment vouchers (one patient gave vouchers to a family member in need). We already have many ideas for solving these challenges.

What’s next?

We’ve proved the service works so now it’s time to:

  • Improve the service design.
  • Help more patients in more areas.
  • Evaluate how it effects NHS costs.

Read the Report

Could keeping people warm and well at home reduce their need for health services? Pilot findings 2021-22

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VIDEO: Case study of Warm Home Prescription pilot project in Gloucestershire 2021-22

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