UK lawsuit pays for heating bills as cure for chronic disease

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LONDON – Every winter, millions of people around the world have symptoms Living with chronic diseases is exacerbated by falling temperatures, even killing them in some cases. Now, a small lawsuit in Britain aims to prevent some of these deaths with an alternative remedy: paying vulnerable people to heat their homes in the winter.

A collaboration between local government officials, the National Health Service and a nonprofit organization, The Warm Home Prescription will cover the heating costs of more than 1,000 people living with chronic cold-sensitive conditions in low-income households across the country. We hope it keeps them healthier.

The trial will run from December to March and builds on the success of a smaller pilot program this year in Gloucestershire in the west of England. Organizers hope to reduce the overall risk of hospitalization for vulnerable people, and will also test whether paying heating bills reduces costs for healthcare providers by preventing costly hospital stays.

Spiraling global energy costs and inflation In other areas it has increased financial pressures on households in the UK, Europe, the United States and beyond, raising concerns for many that they will not be able to properly heat their homes. The UK government has put a legal cap on household energy costs this year, but the broader economic outlook remains grim with the Bank of England warning that the country is heading towards the longest recession in modern history.

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According to the government-run Office for National Statistics, more than half of all excess deaths recorded in Britain during a typical winter are caused by respiratory and circulatory diseases, which are known to worsen in colder temperatures. The office’s latest figures estimate 28,300 excess deaths in the winter of 2019-2020.

“The goal is really to help them stay well, because we know that if they have respiratory conditions and are exposed to the cold at home, they’re probably going to get worse,” said Shantini Paranjothy. A doctor attending the trial in Aberdeen, Scotland. “We try to keep them warm and safe in their homes and prevent them from needing any hospitalization.”

Paranjothy said the average costs of heating trial participants’ homes will be covered by the program, or funds will be sent to keep them on alongside electric heaters. Participants will be selected by local health authorities; The full list of this year’s participants has not been finalized.

Paranjothy said symptoms from diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often worsen during the winter months, when the likelihood of more breathing problems and chest infections increases.

“If you can’t heat your house and you have breathing problems,” he said, “it will make the situation worse. That’s what we know from the pathology of how these diseases progress.”

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The World Health Organization, which advises those with chronic diseases to take extra care to stay warm in winter, says cold air can inflame the lungs, impede circulation and increase the risk of respiratory diseases. “The cold also triggers vasoconstriction, which stresses the circulatory system that can have cardiovascular effects,” the guide says.

Paranjothy advises patients with chronic conditions that are exacerbated by the cold to keep the temperature of the rooms in their homes in their homes around 64 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius) during the winter months, but many Brits can’t afford it. Much cooler conditions are experienced in the north of the country, with temperatures averaging just over 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) in winter, according to the UK Meteorological Office.

Michelle Davis, 38, has several health issues, including COPD, which exacerbated in the winter because she couldn’t afford to adequately heat her home, qualifying for the program’s Gloucestershire trial last year. She said the “recipe” trial, which she hopes to rejoin, allowed her to comfortably warm her home last winter, relieve her cough and chest pain, and contribute to her overall physical and mental health.

“That meant I didn’t go to the hospital,” she said, explaining how her chronic illnesses flared up and took time off in 2020—when she couldn’t afford to keep the temperature of her home at a comfortable level. A hospital with pneumonia and flu.

“It hurts when it gets cold,” he said. “My joints are stiff when it’s cold and wet. They become very painful. I feel like my bones are on fire.” He explained that in previous winters, he spent a lot of time in bed to warm up, afraid to let his two children play outside because he feared they wouldn’t be able to warm up later.

“I didn’t quite understand how much difference it would make to run the heating for an extra hour or two,” he said. “It allowed me to be a mother for a while.”

Food can help control some chronic health conditions, in some cases eliminating the need for medication.

Energy Systems Catapult, the nonprofit that funded the program, hopes it can save lives as well as reduce the wider financial cost placed on healthcare.

Citing a 2021 study by the Building Research Establishment group, the group said the NHS in England alone spends around $1.05 billion each year caring for patients living in cold homes each winter. Long-standing pressures on England’s healthcare system have been exacerbated by rising inflation, which is squeezing the public finances of the NHS.

“If we buy the energy that people need but can’t afford, they can stay warm at home and stay away from the hospital. “This will direct support where it’s needed, save overall, and reduce the strain on healthcare,” Energy Systems Catapult program leader Rose Chard said in a statement.

Rising energy costs will make the Warm Home Recipe program more expensive this winter, but Davis, who hopes to join the new program, says that’s what makes the “recipe” necessary to help keep his family warm and healthy. Without it, the two-bedroom duplex’s energy bills would exceed $300 a month, an increase of $108 from last winter.

“In the long run, it will cost several hundred in a few months. But a night’s stay in the hospital costs the government much more,” he said.

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