Physios should ask people if their homes are cold, says NICE

Physiotherapists could help to prevent winter deaths and illnesses, simply by asking vulnerable people if they live in a cold home.


Physiotherapists can use home visits or consultations to help identify vulnerable people who live in cold homes

This is according to a new quality standard from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 

The standard aims to reduce excess winter deaths and the health risks associated with cold homes.

NICE recommends that primary and community health practitioners should speak to people who may be vulnerable to find out if they have difficulty keeping warm at home.

Conversations on the subject should be raised with vulnerable adults at least once a year, the institute says, either during a home visit or as part of a primary care consultation.

Steve Tolan, the CSP’s head of practice and development, told Frontline: ‘Physiotherapists are a mobile workforce in the health system, and often treat patients in their own home.

‘This quality standard highlights an important opportunity for physiotherapists to further contribute to the protection of vulnerable people during the winter months – avoiding preventable admissions and saving lives.’

The standard says that cold weather has a direct effect on the incidence of heart attack, stroke, respiratory disease, flu and falls and injuries. It also has indirect effects on mental health problems, such as depression.

It also recommends that people who are vulnerable to the health problems associated with a cold home should

  • be identified by hospitals, mental health services and social care services as part of the admission process
  • receive a discharge plan that includes ensuring their home is warm enough
  • receive tailored support, with help from a local single-point-of-contact health and housing referral service

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