Healthier homes on prescription

A scheme in which doctors ask for patients’ housing conditions to be investigated is being given more power.

Up to now the Healthy Homes team – set up to prevent ill health from poor housing conditions- has operated a limited GP referral system, funded through the government’s “Warmer Home’s Healthy People’s Fund.”

Under this scheme GPs and other health professionals are prompted to ask vulnerable patients, identified through record systems, about their housing conditions. If any issues are identified and the patient agrees, they are referred to the Healthy Homes team to investigate.

Now, thanks to £75,000 funding provided by Scottish Power, and facilitated by the National Health Housing and Fuel Poverty Forum, the scheme can be extended to all 95 GP practices in the city, helping health professionals meet the housing, fuel poverty and energy efficiency needs of their patients.

The funding will mean a project manager can be appointed to manage the system and raise awareness with GP practices and health workers about the benefits to vulnerable householders it can bring.

Currently 55 practices, covering more than 28,000 patients, are operating the scheme in full with an average of 25 patients, vulnerable to sub standard housing conditions including fuel poverty, being referred to the Healthy Homes team per month.

The team can provide help on such issues as insulation measures or access to grants for heating.

“A lot of illness can be attributed to poor housing conditions, “said Councillor Ann O’Byrne, city council cabinet member for housing. “It is estimated that in Liverpool each year up to 500 deaths and around 5000 illnesses needing medical attention can be attributed, at least in part, to poor housing, and while progress has been made to improve the energy efficiency of Liverpool homes, there are still 44,000 private households in fuel poverty.

“It makes eminent sense for there to be closer links between health professionals and the Healthy Homes team to identify vulnerable people whose housing may be contributing to their illness so that action can be taken.

“This new funding allows us to extend the scheme throughout the whole of the city and we are very grateful for Scottish Power for providing it and becoming involved in this project.”