NEA and British Gas have now launched this year’s Energy Impact Award scheme with a first prize of £10,000, and two runner-up prizes of £5,000 and £2,500 recognising and rewarding innovation and best practice.
The awards recognise projects focussing on energy and tackling fuel poverty, by benefiting vulnerable people. They are open to community groups, charities, and other third sector organisations, in England, Scotland and Wales.
Here Martin Peake, representing ‘Beat the Cold’ who won the first prize in 2016, talks about their experience of winning the award.
Fuel Poverty and Health
It has been over two years since NICE produced its guidance on excess winter deaths and cold-related ill health and yet the latest report from NEA shows that it is still far from being implemented or even followed in vast areas of the country.
With an NHS under greater pressure, it is the preventive work upstream of an A & E department admission that will make the greatest difference over the coming years. Fuel poverty work, correctly funded, has a vital part to play in supporting the wider health economy.
It is in this context that the idea of the “saving lives with solar” scheme was conceived.
Through the Energy Impact Award supported by NEA and British Gas, Beat the Cold could bring forward the start of its pilot, and started its fuel poverty work for hospital patients during the winter of 2016.
We first targeted those with respiratory illness and the frail elderly, as a cohort we felt we could make the most difference to their health and wellbeing. The number of respiratory health admissions to hospital shoots up in the winter and it is the most elderly that are much more likely to be admitted to hospital, if they present themselves to A & E. Both groups are identified specifically by NICE as particularly vulnerable.
Working together with the University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust and South Staffordshire Community Energy, we have started to save the hospital trust both money and carbon, by installing community-funded solar panels on the hospital roof and supported its patients whose health was known to be at a risk of a cold home, by providing home energy advice visits.
It’s still early days, and we are still learning, but finding patients who had been recently discharged into homes with mould growth or who were living in just one room to conserve heat, was still an eye opener. The link between cold homes and ill health was obvious to see in some of the homes that we had already visited.
Winning the Energy Impact Award has had far-reaching consequences and opened many new opportunities with funders, commissioners, and partners. It has also been an excellent way in to have conversations within the wider health economy.
By Martin Peake, Business Development Manager at Beat the Cold