The Keep Warm, Keep Well scheme seeks to prevent readmissions of vulnerable patients whose health conditions are at risk of being exacerbated by living in cold and damp homes. The scheme comprises a partnership between: University Hospitals North Midlands (UHNM), Staffordshire fuel poverty charity ‘Beat the Cold’, Southern Staffordshire Community Energy (SSCE) and the community (shareholders). £335k was raised from investors in the local and wider community to fund the installation of over 1000 solar panels on the roofs of buildings across the UHNM estate. Buying the electricity generated by the PV panels reduces demand on the grid and gives UHNM cheaper, more resilient supply.
SSCE receive income from Feed-in-Tariffs and from UHNM for the electricity. This facilitates a return for the investors, and a surplus which accumulates into a ‘community fund’. There is an agreement to spend the community fund on alleviating fuel poverty in Staffordshire.
The scheme helps patients by breaking the cycle of readmissions through identifying those whose health would be at risk from cold home and providing affordable warmth to these patients. Additionally, unnecessary journeys are reduced and therefore congestion and air pollution on site and surrounding community. Poor air quality disproportionately affects the health of these types of patients. This intervention is funded entirely by the community fund and is at zero cost to UHNM.
A free home visit from an independent energy advisor, at the visit the advisor will identify any additional benefits patients may be entitled to, and refer to agencies that will support access to these.
Keep Warm Keep Well is an entirely unique, groundbreaking scheme and there are no examples of this type of project happening prior to our partnership. Community Energy schemes are in operation, but never before has a large NHS acute Trust been a part of this whereby Feed-in-Tariffs being accumulated and used as a 'community fund' and then directed towards the funding of a referral pathway.
This is a very compelling and interesting project, therefore engagement was always very easy. However, as the funding model is different to what an NHS Trust has experienced before, the best advice is to start early in entering into the approval and governance process. This will allow for the additional interest and scrutiny that may become apparent.
Looking back on the success of the scheme, we would have spent more time with clinical teams prior to the implementation to ensure they were more confident in identifying vulnerable patients as it is difficult to approach this conversation with patients face to face. We would also make sure we set up regular, perhaps monthly, feedback sessions demonstrating the impact of the scheme on each patients so that staff could see the benefits of their referrals and to ensure that the process would start to become embedded and part of BAU. Consistent, proactive engagement across all cohorts is required to ensure referrals to the scheme remain a priority and are considered as fundamental not only to the recovery of each vulnerable patient, but also to ensuring that patient does not end up back in our A&E department.
- Number of referrals to local Staffordshire fuel poverty charity, Beat the Cold.
- Savings patients make from the advice they receive.
- Number of readmissions into the emergency department.
- Carbon emissions savings.
- Electricity cost savings.