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Councils teaming up with NHS to create better homes to improve health

According to a King’s Fund and National Housing Federation Report, ‘Housing and health: Opportunities for sustainability and transformation partnerships,’ the cost of poor housing to the NHS is £1.4bn a year.

Cold homes can lead to chronic diseases such as lung and heart disease and poor mental health, as well as heart attacks, strokes and falls.

Increasing temperatures in homes to an acceptable level would save the NHS £848m each year, and reducing the incidence of falls in the home could save as much as £435m, the report claims.

Bringing poor-quality homes up to standard by reducing cold, damp and falls hazards could reduce NHS costs by a whopping £2bn a year.

Addressing the wider determinants of health, such as housing, affects the demand for primary and acute services, NHS England’s ‘Next steps on the NHS’ five year forward view’ said, but argued that this could only be done by the NHS and local government working closely together to make the best use of available funding.

Already there are three schemes saving hundreds of nights in hospital, visits to the GP, homelessness and more than £2m in savings is being reinvested into their communities.

Over 20% of Wakefield District Housing’s (WDH) tenants have a health problem, and along with NHS Wakefield CCG it has introduced four jointly funded schemes to improve housing and health.

These schemes have reduced costs on the local health service by up to £1.5m a year.

Included in the schemes are a Care Link Responder Service, which has saved the NHS at least £400,000 by reducing the use of ambulances where not required, and free Telecare for those recently discharged from hospital.

Mental health navigators take referrals from the WDH debt team, housing officers and community safety officers relating to problems such as hoarding, poor tenancy management and antisocial behaviour, which can reportedly prevent eviction and homelessness, which place an even greater strain on NHS mental health services.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Well designed homes that are warm and hazard free reduce the risk of accidents and falls as well as major cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalisations.

“They are a key element of a healthy childhood and an independent old age. That’s why the NHS is stepping up to work with our council, voluntary sector and housing colleagues who can make a huge difference to the lives of millions of our fellow citizens.”

Sarah Roxby, associate director of Housing and Health Transformation at NHS Wakefield CCG and WDH, explained: “We want to provide the best services we can for our tenants and residents of Wakefield and by linking more closely with health colleagues we’ve been able to reduce the main contributors to NHS admissions such as falls and help refer others with mental health problems who could have been at risk of homelessness.

“To us it’s an essential way of working – it improves people’s lives and it saves us all money which can be reinvested into improving other health and social care services.”

Top image: Yui Molk PA Images

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