GP practices should check at least once a year whether their elderly or vulnerable patients are at risk from living in a cold home, and where needed refer them for help, say new NICE recommendations unveiled today.
In wide-ranging new public health guidance aimed at cutting the estimated 24,000 excess winter deaths a year, NICE is calling on GPs to identify their patients who live in cold or hard-to-heat homes, particularly the elderly and those with chronic conditions who are vulnerable to cold weather.
Once identified, GPs should include any concerns a patient is living in a cold home on their records, and share the data with relevant local organisations so they can get help with getting adequate heating and insulation, says NICE.
It also recommends that health and wellbeing boards should set up a ‘single point-of-contact health and housing referral service’ in their area that GPs and other health professionals, as well as other public and charitable services, can refer people to for support.
The recommendation comes after health secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested GPs could prescribe lunch clubs and damp treatment to their patients as part of a more ‘holistic’ approach to commissioning.