DOCTORS are set to prescribe new boilers or home insulation for patients in a bid to cut attendances at accident and emergency.
Experts believe improved heating can hold the key to better health for some people.
A study in England looked at the housing conditions of people who were frequent visitors to A&E departments and found installation of new heating systems, double glazing or insulation led to significant improvements in their health.
Now a pilot scheme is to be launched in Edinburgh, focusing on people with respiratory conditions whose homes could be improved.
The initiative would see the city council paying for heating or insulation work for its tenants while homeowners or private sector tenants would be pointed towards the grants and loans available under various schemes.
A grant fund of up to £100,000 could also be established by the council to help with costs.
Those expected to benefit most are people on low or moderate incomes who suffer from ill health in the private sector.
As a first step, Home Energy Scotland has agreed to fund an energy adviser to be based in a GP practice in the city, to help identify patients who may benefit from the scheme.
Councillor Ricky Henderson, convener of the health, social care and housing committee, said the pilot was based on a study in Sunderland, which had identified people with a respiratory problem who were continually going to A&E.
He said: “They related that to the fact that in some cases people’s homes were not properly heated or insulated. They started a scheme to install boilers or double glazing or insulation and as a result they found people attending A&E far less and their overall health and wellbeing improved. That investment in homes had a great outcome in terms of health.”
He said the Edinburgh scheme would be on the same lines in partnership with NHS Lothian.
“We will identify people with respiratory problems or conditions exacerbated by cold and damp, have a look at their homes and see what could be done to invest in their houses in ways which might improve their health.
“For modest investment, we can improve people’s health quite significantly. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
He said most council houses were fairly energy efficient and the most likely target would be private rented homes.
Around 94 per cent of Edinburgh’s council homes have an energy rating of D or above, compared with 77 per cent of privately owned or rented homes.