Saturday, 8 March 2014

NHS Pays to Keep Patients Warm

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is the primary organisation that is responsible for caring for the sick. It is state-funded and extremely successful at prescribing effective drugs to the people that need them - care where it is needed, when it is needed. It is also taking on a more proactive role in prevention of illness as this tends to be more cost effective that fixing the damage once it is done!

One regional CCG  (specialist services provided by NHS funding) has interpreted its role in prevention a little further than most and instead of waiting for patients to turn up at hospital for (expensive) visits with asthma, infection, allergy and many other health problems caused by cold & damp, has opted to pay for the homes of vulnerable patients to be insulated and heated more efficiently.

Insulation and more efficient heating is certainly a good idea to help prevent hypothermia in the elderly and will help ward off damp and therefore the growth of moulds and bacterial that contribute to infections, but in time there is an extra somewhat counter-intuitive step to take. Warmth will hold more moisture in the air and as a result stop it being deposited onto walls & cold surfaces quite as quickly, but it hasn't gone away and in the absence of adequate ventilation it won't go away.

Efforts to keep heat in also stop ventilation in many cases - holes through which draughts flowed were once hated and plugged up, but this process has now gone so far as to mean some homes have very little means to allow warm damp air to escape. The damp now sits in  the home and will appear as soon as the air cools a little (e.g. at night). Result: disaster! Moulds & damp.

Tenants are often advised to open windows but again this is not advice tenants are likely to follow with great enthusiasm in cold weather - which is just the time when damp from this cause is at its worst.

We would like to suggest CCG's also take on board that ventilation is as important as insulation, and there are ventilation units that will keep warmth in a home while providing fresh air and constantly removing moisture. Heat recovery with mechanical ventilation units are capable of being the answer, but they must be expertly fitted as they can make matters worse if incorrectly fitted. The UK Institute for Specialist Surveyors and Engineers can provide help.

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