New information from Friends of the Earth (FoE), a grassroots environmental organisation, has discovered that Britian sees 40% more visits to the hospital for respiratory related illness such as bronchitis and pneumonia than Sweden, where winters are much colder.
FoE further found that these hospital visits cost the NHS£875 million in bed use alone — costs associated with GP visits and social care pushing that number even higher.
The organisation blamed the UK’s poorly insulated homes for the fact that, despite the much milder winter compared to Sweden and lower energy costs, Britain is in “crisis”.
FoE raises awareness to England’s homes losing three times as much heat to those in Sweden due to lack of insulation such as cavity wall and loft.
“Swedish homes are much more energy efficient than UK homes, leading to lower levels of fuel poverty despite higher energy prices. England’s poor quality housing stock is, therefore, likely to be a significant factor in our much higher levels of hospitalisation for respiratory conditions,” a new FoE briefing paper on cold homes and breathing conditions says.
It adds that: “Cold homes are not only implicated in increasing risk and severity of respiratory conditions, but others to, including strokes, heart attacks, and falls in the home, which are more likely to occur, particularly in older people, when they are cold.”
Demand for action
The group is demanding action from the government, calling for this issue to be a top priority, particularly for low-income families who are impacted for the worse by poor insulation and high energy costs.
There are also a number of energy efficiency grants available.
Boiler by prescription
Those currently suffering from illness thought to be due to a cold home may soon be able to take advantage of a government scheme that allows doctors to prescribe a new boiler, insulation and double glazing to those who qualify financially.
This is part of Ed Davey’s plan to add £3 million in funding to assist fuel poor families in the UK:
“Talking to GPs and other health professionals, they get frankly fed up when they’re just dealing with the symptoms and not the root causes,” said Davey. “This all costs money, huge amounts of money, dealing with the blooming symptoms. I want to deal with the root causes. Why hasn’t this been done before. I am absolutely furious that people have not done this before.”
The scheme is based on other successful ones already in place throughout the country .