Sarah Newton MP welcomes warm homes consideration in NHS disease prevention plan

Sarah Newton MP has welcomed the clear link between 'cold homes and ill-health' outlined in the Public Health Green Paper published today on efforts to improve disease prevention. The Paper also supports the Government's plans to upgrade homes to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2035. The MP recently tabled a Bill in Parliament to require the Government to publish a plan for meeting their domestic energy efficiency targets to help reduce bills and keep homes warm.  

Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth, said: "I welcome the Department of Health's Paper today acknowledging the clear link that warm homes can have in preventing illness, but now we need the clear plans in place to reach these energy efficiency targets. While the Government’s clean growth strategy target for EPC band C by 2035 is universally recognised as a good level of ambition, we still lack a road map for delivering this ambition.  

"So I'm pleased that there is a review of the Fuel Poverty Strategy and hope to see more details soon. Keeping homes warm by reducing the amount of heat they leak out can be crucial to reducing energy bills, preventing related illnesses, and reducing emissions as well. I hope that the case made by the Health Green Paper gives my Bill further support and spurs on the government's work to increase the energy efficiency of all homes. 

"Just locally in Cornwall, a warm homes partnership has secured private funds (Warm Homes Fund and Warm Home Discount) for people struggling with fuel poverty to help install new heating systems and insulation. This has prevented more than 800 hospital admissions, improved their physical and mental health and enabled many to progress to or stay in work." 

Dr Terence Kemple from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change said: "The World Health Organisation estimates at least 30% of excess winter deaths are due to cold homes, with older people being particularly vulnerable as they are more likely to have existing medical conditions, and spend longer in their homes. 

"Cold and damp homes can contribute to or exacerbate respiratory infections, heart disease and arthritis. By improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock we can also improve the health of the environment – by reducing the energy required to heat our homes, and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. It’s important that the Green Paper looking into disease prevention acknowledges these impacts." 

Research from the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group (EEIG) shows that energy efficiency improvements to homes could reduce the energy consumed in UK households each year by 25% and knock £270 off the average annual household bill of £1,100.  

Alasdair MacEwen, spokesperson for the Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Group, which represents over 30 cross-industry organisations said: 

"Improving energy efficiency has multiple benefits including reducing energy bills, and saving energy output equivalent to six nuclear power stations the size of Hinkley Point C. There is also overwhelming consensus around the economic and health benefits of energy efficient homes and that reducing home energy use is the crucial first and least cost step in slashing carbon emissions harmful to our climate. 

"Additional government investment of £1billion into a national energy efficiency infrastructure programme would leverage £3.5 billion of private investment and would allow the UK to meet its targets on efficient homes.   

"Such a programme would pay for itself in the long run and create generous economic returns for government and wider society, including creating extra jobs and improving productivity. Investing in energy efficiency is a win-win, and an important strategic opportunity that the Government needs to take up immediately." 

NOTE TO EDITORS 

The National Infrastructure Commission has made energy efficiency a national priority, and its first assessment has asked for 21,000 insulation measures a week by 2020, which is a sixfold increase on the estimated 3,500 a week at present rates. 

Find out more about the Winter Wellbeing Council, lead by Cornwall Council, here: https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/winterwellbeing 

Find the Health Prevention paper in full: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/advancing-our-health-prevention-in-the-2020s/advancing-our-health-prevention-in-the-2020s-consultation-document 

Cornwall Council Winter Wellbeing WHD Case Study – May 2019 

The customer’s home was located in a rural, coastal, postcard idyllic community. The main source of heating had been condemned, which was a solid fuel Rayburn cooker in a central location with no radiators. The heating, if repaired was becoming increasingly difficult considering her advancing age and health conditions. 

Community Energy Plus (A Winter Wellbeing partner) contacted the customer to agree the best way to a warmer home. They had been using electric convector radiators to heat the property for some months and found them to be very expensive. They switched to a cheaper tariff with a new supplier on prepayment meter, but were unaware that were more tariffs available on a credit meter and further savings were possible by paying through a monthly direct debit.   

The customer is in receipt of Guaranteed Pension Credit and eligible for ECO funding, but this fails to support new electric storage heaters. Due to the existing property constraint and rural location, mains gas is not available, LPG gas is inaccessible and renewables too problematic on the old property. 

Instead, Winter Wellbeing used Warm Home Discount Fund (via partnership with SSE) to fit : 

  • high heat retention electric heaters and secured top up funding from benevolent funds (eligible due to previous employment in healthcare) 

  • heated throw and draught proofed front and back doors by handyperson.     

  • a smart hot water tank to further reduce electric bills. 

  • Eligible and now signed up to priority service register with WPD (Western Power Distribution) and referred for a fire safety check with Cornwall Fire & Rescue. 

They are now healthier and their wellbeing has improved, allowing them to remain independent within their community.