Reducing pressure on our hard-pressed health services

Posted: 29/03/2019

As the colder weather is upon us, Henry Terefenko, ForHousing Managing Director discusses the role housing can play in reducing pressure on our hard-pressed health services.

Last winter as the extreme weather took its toll and NHS resources were stretched to the limit, we saw shocking headlines of doctors forced to treat serious cases in hallways.

Latest reports show nearly one in five local hospital services consistently failing to hit key waiting-time targets – and NHS leaders are predicting another challenging winter.

Partnership working between the housing and health sectors has never been more important, with housing providers well placed to help relieve some of the tremendous pressure the NHS is under.

A King’s Fund and National Housing Federation Report released on housing and health says the cost of poor housing to the NHS is £1.4 billion per year.

Good quality housing that is warm and properly adapted to suit the needs of tenants, in addition to having the right support in place, is key to keep people out of hospital and living independently.

As well as providing tailored support through our community and wellbeing services, last year ForHousing fitted 520 homes with aids and adaptations worth over £500,000 to enable people to remain living in their homes.

We have also been exploring innovative ways to tackle health inequality.

In Ellesmere Port and Neston we have been embracing the concept of social prescribing in partnership with local GPs.

Social prescribing links tenants with non-clinical support in their communities that can range from cooking classes to employment support – all of which can generate real health benefits.

Using the Elemental digital platform we can make direct referrals tailored to the needs of individual residents to services and support in the area and can monitor and track the impact of the social prescription.

To date we have received 58 referrals from partners like GPs and we have made 64 prescriptions from the platform. This is having a positive impact, with people starting to show an improvement in their health and wellbeing scores.

Research shows music can enable people with dementia to connect and communicate in a unique way, significantly boosting their wellbeing.

We have recently launched a music therapy project that will see one of the UK’s leading chamber orchestras work with 50 tenants living with dementia and their families in Salford and St Helens.

Up to 20 care staff will also be trained to develop skills to run their own music making sessions, creating a lasting legacy for the project.

Across Salford one in three adults over the age of 65 will fall each year. The NHS spends a staggering £15 million annually on fall-related injuries with a further £2 billion on hip fractures.

That’s why we’ve been working with Salford City Council, Salford Together and Salford NHS Clinical Commissioning Group on a campaign promoting simple steps people can take to reduce the chance of falling.

Simple interventions can often make a big difference. Introducing Mangar cushions in our extra care schemes, a simple technology that helps gently lift older people after a fall, has resulted in a reduction in paramedic call outs and hospital stays for older residents.

Over the last 12 months the Mangar cushion has been used 182 times, delivering an estimated saving of over £46,000 on paramedic visits.

We believe that empowering the next generation to lead healthier lives is vitally important too.

We run activities for young people ranging from exercise classes like free-running to help them get active, to a project that gets young children to think creatively about what they eat by growing their own food in school community gardens.

For those who need a little extra support, we will make sure someone is there for them.

In periods of severe weather, we will be calling all tenants aged over 75 who live alone and are considered vulnerable, to ensure they are keeping warm and well.

If we have any concerns, we will send a member of staff round in person to check on them.

The long-term consequences of poor housing on people’s health has a major impact on our NHS. Fuel poverty is a prime example of this.

We offer expert energy advice to help reduce the number of tenants experiencing fuel poverty, many of whom are living alone with no access to the internet. We have specialist energy advisors who offer home energy advice, assistance with switching and warm homes discount applications. Advisors have saved more than 240 tenants a total of around £20,000.

Housing providers are doing great work to help improve people’s wellbeing and ultimately reduce the pressure on our vital health services. We have a lot to offer.

By working with the NHS and other partners our goal is to enable people in communities to live longer, healthier, happier lives.

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