Sick people in Gloucestershire could soon have their heating bills paid for on prescription after an NHS trial proved a success.
Last winter an average of £647 was put towards warming the homes of a group of patients with respiratory conditions to see if it helped them stay out of hospital.
Many of those taking part said being able to put the heating on to stay well changed their lives.
The trial was the first of its kind in the UK, and the scheme is now being rolled out to 150 more people who will get money towards their heating bills until March 2023.
The Gloucester GP who helped deliver the trial said it was lovely to be able to put a smile on peoples’ faces and keep patients healthy without needing medicine or a hospital stay.
Dr Hein Le Roux from Churchdown said it was a practical solution that saves the NHS money and makes his job easier.
The pilot, which took place earlier this year, was aimed at cutting the estimated £2.7million Gloucestershire Hospitals spend on treating respiratory conditions every month.
The money was paid directly to the energy company and the average cost of £647 per patient included home assessments and fuel-saving measures.
Michelle Davies, who lives with arthritis and a serious lung condition, said it made a massive difference not just for her but also for her teenage daughters who normally dread winter because of how ill she becomes.
She explained how the cold weather effects her condition. She told the BBC: “My joints ache like there’s no tomorrow.
"My bones feel like hot pokers and I tend to end up either bedridden. In the past I have ended up in hospital a few times with pneumonia, flu, pleurisy.
“It’s mind-blowing how much of a difference it does make. It makes you happier, you’re a bit healthier, you’re not in as much pain so you are not so snappy, you’re not stuck in bed.
"We had a nice Christmas, which doesn’t happen very often, and the children have been able to have a life and be children instead of being mum’s carers.”
She added: “If everybody had the help I was fortunate to experience. I think it would make such a difference to people's lives.”
The cost of rolling out the Warm Home Prescription to more people will be paid for by the Government’s Housing Support fund, not the NHS.
Dr Le Roux said he would like to prescribe warm homes to more sick patients but the impact of the war in Ukraine meant only 150 vulnerable patients can be helped this winter.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “People with conditions such as COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis are at particular risk from complications associated with living in cold housing.
"The Warm Home prescription allows us to be more proactive in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our county.
"We want to stop people from becoming unwell and help them to stay healthy at home in housing that is safe and warm.”
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