Amidst the backdrop of doctor and consultant strikes, the Conservative Party missed a significant opportunity to meet home energy efficiency targets and simultaneously alleviate the strain on the NHS at its Annual Conference in Manchester this week.
A study conducted by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University last winter demonstrated that providing warmer homes “on prescription” had the potential to prevent excess winter deaths and reduce the pressure on the NHS caused by cold homes combined with long-term health conditions.
According to a report published by the Health Foundation in July, 9.1 million people will be living with major illnesses by 2040, which is 2.5 million more than in 2019. Addressing this challenge is vital for the nation’s future well-being and requires “long-term decisions for a brighter future.”
However, the government and media have primarily focused on the benefits of energy efficiency retrofits in reducing energy bills, neglecting to emphasise the significance of warmer homes and improved air quality in enhancing the health of people of all ages, not just those with long-term illnesses or the elderly.
Public Health England highlights that “excess winter deaths in the coldest quarter of housing are almost 3 times as high as in the warmest quarter” with 21.5% of all excess winter deaths attributable to the coldest quarter of housing,”
While some politicians recognise the opportunity to reduce energy use, improve home air quality and comfort, and decrease NHS demands through home upgrades, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a delay in phasing out fossil fuel heating and transport suggests that the Conservatives may not be fully embracing these ideas.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority has prioritised spending its devolved budget on energy-efficient homes to enhance health and economic well-being. It supports homeowners in upgrading their homes to make them warmer and healthier, especially as more people live with underlying health conditions as they age.
The commitment to energy-efficient, healthier homes remains steadfast among those leading Greater Manchester. Mayor Andy Burnham reaffirmed this commitment at the sixth Greater Manchester Green Summit, stating that they are resolute in achieving Net Zero goals by 2038.
Industry players are also rising to the challenge, offering local communities decarbonisation solutions and supporting local action. The British Gas-sponsored Home Upgrade Show, taking place in Manchester next week, will bring together over 50 exhibitors and experts to provide residents with information and guidance on energy efficiency. The event is part of the wider Retrofit Action Week campaign, promoting housing decarbonisation across Greater Manchester.
Graham Lock, event organiser and founder of Low Carbon Homes, emphasises that retrofitting homes for energy efficiency is a solution that addresses the need to reduce energy consumption, tackle the cost of living crisis, and support the struggling NHS, making it an opportunity to ensure that taxpayers’ money is used effectively to benefit more people.