More than 1,000 sick people will get their heating on prescription to prevent them from being hospitalized this winter.
It follows an NHS pilot program in Gloucestershire last winter involving 28 low-income patients whose conditions deteriorated in the cold.
Now the scheme is rolling out to a further 150 homes in Gloucestershire and 1,000 in Aberdeenshire and Teesside, with bills paid from this month until March.
Michelle Davis, 28, who suffers from arthritis and heart disease, said the results were “breathtaking” last year.
“When the weather gets cold, I tend to get cold,” the mother-of-two said. “If everyone could have this experience that I had, it could really change people’s lives.”
Across the county, another 2,000 people with similar conditions fell seriously ill as the trial unfolded from December to March, costing the NHS £6million. Cold houses are thought to cost the NHS a total of £860m a year – and are thought to be the cause of 10,000 deaths each winter.
“The NHS was telling us they were seeing benefit much faster than pills and potions,” said trial co-ordinator Dr Matt Lipson. “If we buy energy that people need but can’t afford, they can stay warm at home and avoid going to hospital.”
Those eligible were identified by NHS GPs and social prescribers who visit patients with long-term health conditions at home. Last year a recipient admitted: ‘I thought it was a scam. No way they’ll pay my heating bill by the end of March.
Another participant, Deborah, whose husband Andrew suffers from emphysema and heart disease, said it kept them from having to choose between heat and food. “This is the first winter in a very long time that my husband has been able to get warm, and that’s a huge thing for us.”
Meanwhile, London’s health chiefs have launched a pilot scheme to prescribe fruit and vegetables to people with chronic illnesses and mental health issues.
Professor Sam Everington, of the Tower Hamlets NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, said around 120 people in Lambeth and Tower Hamlets will receive vouchers worth up to £8 a week to spend on health products fresh groceries as part of a nine-month experiment.
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