Health chiefs urge energy vulnerable residents to sign up to priority registers to ensure medical equipment maintains power

Households struggling with the escalating electricity costs for the medical equipment they depend on are being urged to sign up to their energy providers’ Priority Registers to get additional support.

Many households across the region are struggling with the rising energy bills, but it can be a particular problem for people who depend on electricity to run the machines which keep them alive.

Sarah Cookson MBE, who founded the regional charity The Charlie and Carter Foundation to help the families of children with life-limiting conditions, said: “Mortgage payments and rent used to be the two biggest areas we provided financial support but the primary help being asked for now is for energy bills. When we started in 2014 it used to be around £80 per month but for most families we are currently helping it’s now over £600.

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“For families of children with life-limiting conditions, using or charging the machines which keep their children alive is not a choice.”

Many households have family members who depend on life supporting medical equipment.
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To support such families and other energy vulnerable households, the NHS Integrated Care Board North East and North Cumbria have joined forces with the region’s directors of public health to launch the Stay Switched on Campaign.

The initiative looks to ensure eligible households sign up to priority registers which “helps suppliers know which customers need extra support”.

The service will ensure priority notice and support linked to any potential power cuts, support in emergency situations and being fast-tracked to contact a network representative when needing help.

Co-founder of The Charlie and Carter Foundation, Sarah Cookson MBE, said the charity is now having to provide more financial help to pay peoples' energy bills.

Other priority services include installation or relocation of prepayment meters and access to emergency credit to ensure vital life supporting equipment is always supplied.

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Samantha Allen, chief executive of the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "It's a tough winter for many people, particularly people who need extra support.

"If you rely on power for essential medical equipment, a health condition or struggle to get to the door in an emergency, access your meter or read your energy bills, your supplier can help.

"A disrupted energy supply can have a big impact on vulnerable patients, and we want to make sure people have the support they need. Getting registered means your supplier knows who you are and what help you need.

"Good health is not just about treating sickness, it's also about keeping well. We’ve already contacted Ofgem to raise concerns about the risks any disruption of energy supply means for the health of our most vulnerable patients."

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Households eligible for the register include anyone who is disabled or has a long-term health condition, needs to use medical equipment that requires a power supply, are pregnant or have children under five living with them, or are of state pension age.

Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem, said: "We urge people to check with their supplier whether they may benefit from services available through the Priority Services Register. We know that not everyone eligible is currently benefiting.

"This can help with everything from tailored customer care, benefit checks, more accessible formats for energy bills, more frequent meter reading and free gas safety checks."

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Further information can be found on the Ofgem website.