A Stark Reminder

Another week, another set of headlines about the NHS and social care funding in crisis. The CEO of NHS England, Simon Stevens, went as far as saying that the NHS would be ‘unworkable’ without an improved funding offer in the forthcoming Spending Review.

Preventing hospitalisation and reducing need for care services has never been more critical. Yet at a local level housing services which improve older people’s homes e.g. removing falls risks, making older people warmer and safer, are finding it increasingly difficult to keep going.

With a few exceptions, most Care & Repair and similar agencies have faced considerable funding reductions, whilst many of the ‘tools’ available to pay for hazard reduction – affordable loans, small grants, handyperson schemes, falls prevention / safety checks, Warm Front etc. etc. – have all but disappeared.

The Building Research Establishment (BRE) quantifies the cost of poor housing to the NHS was £1.4 billion so it doesn’t take a genius to see the potential NHS savings if we remove hazards in the homes of older people.

What also has to be kept in mind is that there are potentially even greater savings to social care if housing conditions are improved/risks reduced, let alone improved wellbeing and extended independent living – as yet not adequately quantified.

A useful first step would be an obligation on every Health & Well Being Board to include an assessment of health impact of local poor housing conditions in their local strategic plans, combined with commissioning of services that tackle housing hazards and hence reduce risk to health. We can but hope.