New windows… just what the doctor ordered

GPs will have the power to prescribe domestic energy efficiency measures such as double glazing to patients whose poor health is affected by cold homes as part of the government’s fuel poverty strategy. The Guardian recently reported that energy secretary, Ed Davey, will announce £3m funding for preparatory work on the scheme across England.

Cold weather is estimated to cost the NHS £1.5bn a year and more than 9,000 Britons are reported to have died prematurely during the 2012-13 winter due to cold homes. About 2.4m households in the UK fall below the poverty line after paying energy bills. Many more live in excessively cold homes. Cold exacerbates a huge range of health issues, including asthma, bronchitis, heart and lung disease, kidney disease and mental health problems.

Gerald Allen, marketing manager at Swish Window and Door Systems, commented:

“Replacement double glazing on prescription may not be as daft as it sounds if a Clinical Commissioning Group in Sunderland has anything to do with it. A small pilot project was carried out to see if spending up to £5,000 per home on boilers, double glazing and insulation can improve the health of patients with chronic chest disease and cut the cost of their medical care in winter. Initial results are exciting with a 28% decrease in GP attendances and a 40% drop in hospital attendances. Home heating costs dropped by £30 a month too.

“Is this the first case of the Government taking a joined up approach to improving the thermal efficiency of housing stock to help the vulnerable?

“Not yet, but it should be according to the leaders of eighty charities, businesses and unions. In a letter to the Telegraph they have called on ministers to spend £8.5 billion over the next 5 years on insulation and other energy efficiency measures to save lives, cut £335 a year on energy bills and create 100,000 new jobs.

“This is one to watch. Unlike the Green Deal, it’s being driven from the bottom up by local health trusts and authorities as well as prominent figures from industry and charities. So public funded energy saving measures to homes could gain momentum at a local level without central government involvement. That could be an interesting development for the glazing industry.

“As well as the health benefits achieved in the Sunderland trials, the savings on energy costs are also impressive. They demonstrate a big reduction in cost that is often quoted but seldom proven. It’s certainly a good figure for installation companies to quote when explaining to homeowners the ongoing cost benefits of fitting new energy efficient windows, adding insulation and possibly replacing a tired old boiler.

“The knock on effect of saving lives, reducing admissions to hospital and creating better living conditions is a powerful message. If our industry can get behind this influential campaign and window companies support it at local level it could be good for everyone.”

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