Summer may be round the corner but in this cost-of-living crisis domestic fuel bills remain one of the most significant challenges facing household finances, and for some the consequences of that could literally make them ill.
To help ease the issues that fuel poverty may bring, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has launched a Home Energy Crisis Response Service for patients receiving care in Acute and Mental Health services.
The service, which is being funded by the NHSGGC Endowments Committee and delivered in partnership with Money Matters Money Advice Centre in Glasgow, identifies patients who need help with home energy costs so that they can return home safely from a hospital stay without the worry of the additional health consequences of living in a cold, damp home.
And as well as helping with the physical and mental wellbeing of patients, the service also helps people to get home more quickly, freeing up much-needed beds and contributing to improved patient flow through hospitals across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The service can tackle immediate energy emergencies, advocate on behalf of patients with energy providers and help with access to external home energy emergency funds.
Staff are encouraged to refer patients to the service if they feel they need help via their Hospital Support & Information Services who will be also be able to offer a wide range of wrap-around practical and emotional support for patients and carers including food on discharge packages.
Early feedback has been very positive. One former patient, who will remain anonymous to protect patient confidentiality, said: “Energy service helped me with my bills, helped my stress as well. Brilliant service. Thank you.”
Another said: “Needed help to top up gas meter as it’s been so expensive. I am so grateful for the help of this service.”
Anna Baxendale, Head of Health Improvement at NHSGGC, said: “Fuel bills are a huge challenge for all of us at the moment, but for some patients fuel poverty is such a significant issue that when there is no power on at home we cannot allow them home, even if they are ready for discharge.
“That is why this new service is so important. As well as addressing the physical and psychological needs of patients, it allows us to get patients home more quickly if they are ready to do so.
“I would like to thank all staff who have referred patients to the service, and encourage everyone within NHSGGC to make use of it if they feel a patient could benefit from our help on discharge.”
Geraldine Cotter, Chief Executive Officer of Money Matters Money Advice Centre, said: “Money Matters are delighted to be part of this innovative project that has come at a crucial time with the energy crisis. We want patients to focus on their recovery rather than worrying about their energy issues. The assistance our advisers are providing to patients and their families is invaluable and will help alleviate energy crisis situations”.
To access NHSGGC Hospital Support and Information services, go to www.nhsggc.scot/support-and-information-service/