Doctors are prescribing heating to patients with conditions that get worse in the cold as part of a health trial.
The Warm Home Prescription pilot paid to heat the homes of 28 low-income patients to avoid the cost of hospital care if they became more ill.
Michelle Davis, who has arthritis and serious pulmonary illness, had her energy bills paid for and said the difference was "mind-blowing".
"When the weather turns cold, I tend to seize up," she told the BBC. "It's very painful, my joints ache and my bones are like hot pokers."
In 2020 Ms Davis spent most of the winter in bed, trying to keep warm and was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy. But not in winter 2021.
"You're not stuck in bed, you're not going to hospital, my children were able to have a life, they were able to go out and play and get cold," she said.
Academics estimate that cold homes cost NHS England £860m a year and that 10,000 people die every year due a cold home. But that research was completed before the current cost of living crisis took hold.
This first trial achieved such good results, that it's being expanded to 150 households in NHS Gloucestershire's area, plus about 1,000 in Aberdeen and Teesside.
Dr Matt Lipson helped design the pilot programme and feels like this preventative step is a no-brainer for the health service.
"If we buy the energy people need but can't afford, they can keep warm at home and stay out of hospital," he said. "That would target support to where it's needed, save money overall and take pressure off the health service."
The change in patients was swift: "The NHS were telling us they were seeing a benefit much more quickly than pills and potions," Dr Lipson added. "It was taking days, not weeks and months."
Read full story
Source: BBC News, 22 November 2022