It’s been reported that Doctors are prescribing warmth this winter in a bid to help combat health conditions, which are exacerbated in the winter. The Warm Home prescription was launched in 2021 and has so far paid to heat the homes of almost 30 patients on low incomes. A key objective of this pilot is to hopefully avoid the patients becoming ill and needing hospital treatment – which carries significant costs to the NHS let alone more risk and distress to the patient.
This scheme was piloted in Gloucestershire and patients had to reach a number of requirements before they could be prescribed warmth. This was funded through the government’s Housing Support Fund. This pilot has been deemed a success so far, and the plan is now to extend it to 1,000 homes in Teeside, Aberdeenshire and the NHS Gloucestershire area. A cold home can be dangerous for people with health conditions such as COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis. The average cost per patient on the pilot that was prescribed warmth was £647. A report published by the Building Research Establishment in 2021 shows that treating patients who live in cold homes costs the NHS £860m per year in England alone.
Housing Support Fund:
Some £421m has been made available to councils around the UK to help those in the most need due to the cost of living. This fund covers the period of 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023. It’s mainly down to the local council or unitary authority how the spend is split in a specific area. In Birmingham for example the fund has already paid out £7m to 35,000 households. Stoke-on-Trent city council have distributed £2.68m to the most vulnerable households. In Cornwall, £4.5m has been secured from this fund to provide £80 payments to people in need who fit specific criteria.
Cost of Living:
With the cost of living crisis taking a huge impact on family finances, those who need to stay at home and keep warm often find themselves in a very unfortunate position. Often they need to claim benefits as they are unable to work due to their poor health, and being at home during the day means in winter the heating will be on longer compared to if they were at work. It’s a double whammy and easy to see how some people in ill health avoid keeping the heating on, which in turn makes their conditions worse and leads some to sadly end up in hospital.
Tips on Keeping Warm:
While prescribing warmth is a good idea, it won’t be available to everyone. Here are a few tips to keep warm:
1. Thick Curtains – One of the best ways to keep your home warm in cold weather is to have thick curtains. Many homes, especially those that don’t have double glazing will lose a considerable amount of heat through windows.
2. Chimney Balloons – If you have a chimney with an open fire that you no longer use you should consider investing in a chimney balloon. Unless you have a gas fire or wood burning stove fitted then you will be wasting a great deal of heat through an exposed redundant open fire, as the heat will quickly find its way up the chimney. Chimney balloons cost from £20 and are a very quick and easy fix. If you have an open fire that you use from time to time you can use a chimney draft excluder, which can be added from inside the room – just remember to take it out before you light your fire.
3. Giving Radiators Space – Make sure you keep your radiators away from furniture. Having your sofa right up against the radiator may look cosy, but it will absorb a great deal of heat. Giving your radiator a little space will allow all the heat to warm the room up. You can also further help a radiator become even more efficient by fitting reflective foil at the back, allowing it to reflect heat away from the wall it sits on back into the room.
4. Small Drafts – There are a number of small drafts around the home, which can all contribute to heat loss. Examples are letterboxes, where brush closers are ideal for stopping junk mail leaflets and also stopping excessive drafts. Keyhole covers are great at stopping drafts through keyholes – especially with older homes, which may have more traditional, larger keylocks fitted. Small drafts in windows can be tackled by fitting double glazing film, which although is not as good as the real thing, is a great deal cheaper.
5. Cover Bare Floors – Did you know that floors that are not insulated can account for up to 12% of total heat loss in a room? If you do not want to use carpet in a room, then using a rug or mat will help.
6. Getting Your Timing Right – If you are experiencing very cold weather consider setting your heating to come on before you arrive home, to allow the house to become warm, as opposed to arriving home, feeling cold, and putting the temperature right up (much warmer than you usually have it) to get warm. Having the heating on for longer, with a lower more stable temperature, will be much more fuel efficient, and more comfortable than shorter hot blasts.
7. Loft Insulation – DIY loft insulation can be a great way to keep your home warm. Although you can get a professional to install it, you can also do this yourself if you have easy access to your loft.
8. Switch On Your Ceiling Fan – Switching your ceiling fan on, in a clockwise direction will help circulate warm air back towards the lower parts of the room. Hot air rises, so switching on your fan will ensure this warm air is pushed back down to where it should be – warming you up!
9. Layer Your Blankets – Fluffy blankets should be closer to your skin, with dense blankets on the outside to help prevent convective heat loss. This can be an efficient way to keep warmer in bed when the heating may be switched off.
10. Switch Between Hot & Cold – A hot shower may warm you up on a cold morning. However, a cold shower will help improve blood flow between your skin and organs, plus talking cold showers are also correlated with an improved immune system. If taking a cold shower is too much then switch between hot and cold and see how that helps you. Using less hot water will save you money too.