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How housing MOTs, helplines and grants reduce hospital admissions

As a King’s Fund report highlights the cost of poor housing on the NHS, it highlights three projects that are working together to improve patients care and reduce costs

Published on 23rd March 2018

Housing MOT’s have resulted in a reduction in hospital admissions for people having experienced falls, NHS England has said.

A project called Lightbulb in Blaby, Leicestershire which carries out ‘Housing MOT’s’ has been hailed a success after saving the NHS more than £400,000 as well as reducing hospital admissions and A&E attendances for older people.

The NHS praised the project after a King’s Fund and National Housing Federation Report  on housing and health says the cost of poor housing to the NHS is £1.4 billion per year. Cold housing can lead to chronic diseases like lung and heart diseases and poor mental health as well as heart attacks, strokes and falls.

The report says that reducing excess cold in homes to an acceptable level would save the NHS around £848 million a year and reducing all falls in the home could save it £435 million. NHS costs could be reduced by £2 billion per year if poor-quality homes with health hazards, such as cold, damp and falls hazards, were brought up to standard, it says.

Simon Stevens NHS England Chief Executive, said: “Well designed homes that are warm and hazard free reduce the risk of accidents and falls as well as major cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalisations. They are a key element of a healthy childhood and an independent old age. That’s why the NHS is stepping up to work with our council, voluntary sector and housing colleagues who can make a huge difference to the lives of millions of our fellow citizens.”

Seventy five per cent of deaths related to falls happens at home and represent 10-25 per cent of ambulance calls to older adults.

In Blaby, Leicestershire, the county and district councils have worked with the NHS to develop and fund housing support service, ‘Lightbulb’. This provides housing ‘MOTs’ to identify immediate housing safety risks and make adaptations such as ramps or room alterations, and tackle problems such as poor heating and hoarding.

It provides grants, advice and information on wider support and works with Leicestershire hospitals to support discharge and prevent readmissions.

The project led to a reduction in use of some services by 66 per cent, lower A&E attendances and emergency admissions. As a result, 920 unnecessary bed days were saved from the Bradgate Mental Health Unit, 89 per cent of service users said their physical and mental health had improved, 78 per cent felt better about their home and 71 per cent felt better able to get around their home and garden without the risk of falling.

Last September, the scheme was estimated to have saved the NHS more than £435,000 and has been extended across the county.

A second project,Wycombe District Council’s ‘Healthy Homes on Prescription,’ allows medical or social care practitioners to refer patients for simple, fast-tracked housing solutions to support independent living at home such as stair lifts or a central heating system.

People with a long-term chronic health condition can apply for up to £5,000 without means testing to help support their physical and mental well-being at home, preventing hospital admission and GP attendances.  It is already saving the NHS £53,476 and social care £132,984.

In addition, in Wakefield, thebiggest housing provider Wakefield District Housing (WDH), which has more than 31,600 properties housing about a quarter of Wakefield’s population, introduced four schemes with NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning group to improve housing, tenants’ and community health.

They are saving the NHS and wider society by improving individuals’ health and have potentially reduced costs on the local health service of up to £1.5 million a year. 3,200 tenants have the Care Link Responder Service, an alarm with a response team on the end, to help with crises mainly falls but also no response calls, manual handling and assistance and reassurance.

Of the 1,832 calls for falls from these people last year only seven per cent needed an ambulance saving the NHS more than £400k a year – more if an admission had followed – with 1,704 fewer ambulances needed taking the strain off emergency services.

People discharged from hospital get free Telecare while they recover which is a free direct helpline to a team to get help with issues like falls and mobility, reducing pressure on the NHS.

There is also a new service based on local hospital wards so when tenants are admitted key workers begin addressing property barriers that might prevent a return home such as broken heating, cold homes or new mobility equipment needed. They reduce NHS delayed transfers of care by using their home improvements team to rectify any issues.

Sarah Roxby, Associate Director of Housing and Health Transformation at NHS Wakefield CCG and WDH, said: “We want to provide the best services we can for our tenants and residents of Wakefield and by linking more closely with health colleagues we’ve been able to reduce the main contributors to NHS admissions such as falls and help refer others with mental health problems who could have been at risk of homelessness. To us it’s an essential way of working – it improves people’s lives and it saves us all money which can be reinvested into improving other health and social care services.”

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