19 January 2024

‘It’s been a choice between heating my home or using my oxygen’

That’s an observation from Joe, one of the individuals who was helped by a scheme to alleviate the impact of fuel poverty on vulnerable people.

Health Innovation North West Coast and NHS Cheshire and Merseyside joined forces to explore ways of supporting people whose health condition made them particularly vulnerable to fuel poverty.

The successful scheme featured several partners from the public and voluntary sectors and has been nominated for two prestigious HSJ Partnership awards.

Now the project team has assembled a suite of resources in a toolkit that aims to help other teams implement similar schemes in their areas. Those resources are collected here and include:

  • A blueprint explaining the population health management approach to the project, describing processes, outcomes and lessons learnt
  • Forms to access the data dashboard and instructions on how at-risk cohorts in Cheshire and Merseyside were identified
  • Process maps to explain in detail how to deliver similar projects

More than 1.5m people in Cheshire and Merseyside have a medical condition that makes them especially vulnerable to poorly heated homes.

The project focused on ‘trailblazer’ sites in Knowsley and St Helens where multidisciplinary teams delivered targeted interventions involving healthcare, housing and financial support.

Lucy Malcolm, Senior Digital Transformation and Clinical Improvement Manager at NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, said: “We’ve seen some great results from the project which benefited from a lot of people from different backgrounds making a commitment to seeing the programme work.

“It has been a great example of collaboration and the interventions we’ve made have been very varied, from referrals to GPs to helping with smoking cessation to mental health referrals. We’ve also seen charities specialising in home heating involved.

“Because the work has been so varied we wanted to make sure other organisations could benefit from the lessons we’ve learnt, which is why we’ve put together the toolkit.”

Rhiannon Clarke, the Programme Manager leading Health Innovation North West Coast’s involvement in the scheme, said: “Our role is to innovate and try new ways of tackling our biggest challenges. We feel we’ve done that by exploring a wide range of methods to support people.

“The success of the programme makes it even more exciting and that’s why we want to help providers in other areas learn from our experience and build on our success.”

One of the patients to benefit from the scheme was Joe – not his real name – who is quoted above. Joe needs a constant supply of oxygen and suffers from COPD and pulmonary fibrosis.

When the team first contacted him, Joe said he had to choose between maintaining his oxygen supply and heating his home, because he could not afford to do both. You can read more about Joe and individuals in similar situations in our previous story.

Work is continuing in the areas where it was introduced and has also moved on to Warrington. The project was designed and delivered as part of the NHS England and Health Innovation Network Innovation for Healthcare Inequalities Programme. It meets the NHS’s Core20PLUS5 health inequalities agenda, which focuses on improving outcomes for the most deprived 20 per cent of the population in five clinical areas, including chronic respiratory disease.

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