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Will The Success Of The 'Boiler On Prescription' Scheme See It Replicated Nationwide?

By Kevin Burke
30th December, 2014

boiler cover

The 'boiler on prescription' scheme in Sunderland has successfully reduced GP appointments, suggesting that community energy saving initiatives could have a real impact on vulnerable people's health.

The initiative, which is managed through a collaboration between Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group and Gentoo Group, sees people with serious health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder receive boiler replacements and other energy-saving home improvements.

A study into the efficacy of the initiative found that the number of GP appointments made by recipients of the energy efficiency measures fell by 28% over the course of the scheme, while the number of outpatient appointments dropped by 33%.

A control group, who had similar health problems to the study group, saw their volume of NHS appointments increase over this timeframe.

But the scheme hasn't just proven to reduce the burdens faced by the NHS - it has also helped recipients save money and curtailed their carbon footprint. Gentoo Group discovered that the households who have received home improvements through the scheme have seen their energy bills fall by an average of £30 a month as a result.

Benefactors of the energy-efficient home improvements during the pilot phase of the project underwent an Energy Performance Assessment both before and after their home improvements were installed, and typically saw their Energy Performance Certificate rating increase from G to D. Logs of the temperatures of recipients' homes simultaneously discovered that bedroom temperatures have increased by an average of 14% and living room temperatures by an average of 42% since the home improvements were made. Some of the energy efficiency measures recipients have benefited from include:

The trial initially began after Gentoo Group, which owns 28,500 properties in the region, realised that its tenants felt happier when their homes were more sustainable and energy-efficient.

The organisation got in touch with , which offered £50,000 so Gentoo Group could run a proper trial. The organisations chose 12 homes, none of which were Gentoo customers (in order to retain objectivity), and all of which had poor insulation and at least one resident that suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder. Half of these households received £5,000 worth of energy efficiency measures.

As this pilot has been shown to be effective, the 'boilers on prescription scheme' may soon be replicated across Sunderland and even the rest of the UK. Dr Tim Ballard, Royal College of GPs Vice Chair, said this is the next "big challenge" for the scheme.

Relatively cheap energy efficiency measures can have a great impact on the NHS bill - the average outpatient appointment costs around £100, GP visits typically set the NHS back £20, and an emergency hospital admission costs an average of £2,500. Accordingly, energy efficiency on prescription appears to be "really, really cost-effective", Dr Ballard remarked.

Kevin Burke, representative of boiler cover providers 247 Home Rescue, said it is "clear" that energy efficiency can help the NHS deal with some of the burdens it faces and can improve people's health.

He said 247 Home Rescue had predicted that the boiler on prescription scheme would be a "big success", and called for other healthcare organisations to look into the data so they can replicate the scheme nationwide.

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