The World Health Organisation estimates that 30% of winter deaths are caused by cold housing. In Scotland this means that six people die every day of winter from causes directly attributable to fuel poverty.
Scotland has integrated health and social care to improve outcomes and support disease prevention. By tackling the causes of ill health earlier it is hoped that people will live longer, healthier lives “at home or in a home like setting”.
Energy Action Scotland contends that with 25% of households of Scotland living in fuel poverty we are tying our own hands at improving outcomes, reversing pressure on GPs and on NHSScotland budgets. For example,
- visits to GP consultations for respiratory disease increase by 19% for every one degree that the temperature drops below 5 degrees centigrade
- 9% of hypertension cases could be prevented by maintaining indoor temperature about 19 degrees
- More than one of four young people living in a cold household are at risk of multiple health problems
Those who are fuel poor are more likely to turn their heating down below the level adequate for their wellbeing and are more likely to live in energy inefficient homes, which are poorly insulated and prone to dampness.
An adequate standard of living is a human right and as such must be at the heart of our service design both locally and nationally. Inadequate housing cannot support good health and wellbeing and should be key to all decisions made about population health.
Energy Action Scotland believes there are two main avenues that need to be pursued to fully integrate the issues surrounding health and fuel poverty:
That LIST and SOURCE data currently gathered across Scotland’s 31 health and social care partnership areas includes markers for fuel poverty and other key housing issues so that we may develop a picture of the impact of fuel poverty, and hard to heat property locally and nationally to more efficiently target improvement and investment as well as to alleviate pressure on primary care and social work services.
That housing is fully integrated into all 31 local arrangements as is possible under options available to Integrated Joint Boards. Housing expertise and collaborative, truly multi-disciplinary planning are crucial to support population health improvement and independent living. Tackling fuel poverty one household at a time will fail to deliver promised change and condemn yet another generation to live and die in cold, damp homes.