Doctors prescribe new boilers to cold Sunderland patients

Herbie Harris with his wife June, 75
Herbie Harris with his wife June, 75
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HOMES’ group Gentoo is turning up the heat on ill health.

The firm is working with the National Health Service on a pilot scheme allowing GPs to prescribe a new central heating boiler for their patients.

Gentoo has joined forces with several North East clinical commissioning groups to allow GPs to prescribe free home improvements for patients suffering from medical conditions exacerbated by cold, damp homes.

The hope is that the scheme will cut the need for medical interventions and reduce their need for GP and hospital appointments.

A pilot scheme, funded by Sunderland’s clinical commissioning group, has helped six people across Wearside suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A team from Gentoo carried out an energy-efficiency assessment on the properties to see what improvements could be made.

The six patients involved had 63 interactions with the NHS between them, including three emergency admissions.

The average spend on energy-efficient improvements during the trial was £5,000, only twice the cost of each single emergency admission to hospital.

Gentoo Green director Sally Hancox said: “While conditions such as COPD can’t be cured, it is hoped improvements to people’s homes will not only improve quality of life and reduce the risk of fuel poverty, but may help manage the symptoms and result in less ongoing support from the NHS.

“Improvements to a person’s health cannot be measured overnight. However, we are committed to the long-term support of this project.

“We hope the savings made to the NHS will enable us to increase the scale of this pioneering project and improve even more lives.”

One of the first to benefit was Herbie Harris, 77. The former electrician lives in Sunderland with wife June, 75.

He said: “We’ve had new windows, two new doors and a new boiler.

“We have noticed a big difference since the new glazing was put in. The house is now keeping its heat a whole lot better, and we feel warmer and more comfortable in our own home.

“Hopefully it’ll reduce the bills and make a difference to my health.”