Unlocking the potential of housing for health

We want to create sustainable housing and health partnerships across West Yorkshire and Harrogate. We know that there are a lot of great partnerships already taking place across the area in Bradford District and Craven; Calderdale, Harrogate, Leeds and of course in Kirklees and Wakefield and we are keen to share good practice and replicate approaches to build and strengthen joined up services.

Jacqui Gedman, Chief Executive of Kirklees Council is the nominated CEO Lead for Housing and Health across the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Partnership. Her role is to facilitate the sharing of good practice whilst bringing housing partners to the table with new ideas. Sarah Roxby from WDH is supporting Jacqui as the Health and Housing Strategic Lead and together with colleagues, including Jo Webster, Chief Officer for Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group they hope to harness the potential of all our housing partners across the whole of the area.

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It is now widely recognised that the right home environment is essential to health and wellbeing; good quality housing is critical to a healthy community. The availability of affordable healthy food is often determined by where people live, and these factors help enable people to manage their wellbeing better.

The Kings Fund produced a report in 2018 ‘Housing and Health Opportunities for Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships’ urging Partnerships such as ours in West Yorkshire and Harrogate  to work more closely with the housing sector.

Many reports highlight the important role of housing in improving health and wellbeing. It is widely evident that addressing wider determinants of health can result in a positive impact on the demand for health and care services – whilst most importantly improving people’s wellbeing.

Safe and warm housing is a fundamental basic need. A good quality affordable home that is tailored to the needs of households is important for everyone’s wellbeing.

Worryingly a report produced by the Northern Housing Consortium identifies that sub-standard private housing is a major problem in the North. Yet the issue is overlooked and rarely discussed. Nearly 1m owner-occupied homes in the North fail to meet the decent homes standard in addition to 354,000 private rented homes.

We also know that fuel poverty is on the rise. For example in Wakefield alone there are 15,000 households, or 10% living with fuel costs which put their income below the poverty line. It can also mean that people have to face a difficult choice between heating and eating.

Poor housing and the impact on health is one area we have pledged to tackle together across West Yorkshire and Harrogate; it costs the NHS £1.4bn a year but by reducing excess cold to an acceptable level, we could save £848m nationally, more importantly we could improve people’s lives.

Housing advice and support at an early stage in a person’s health journey can support the reduction of unnecessary days spent in hospital. Poor housing health also has a huge impact on hospitals nationally which report a yearly 110,000 bed days lost to the NHS due to delayed discharges from hospital due to a housing related issue.

We believe very strongly in the importance of housing in delivering better health outcomes and this cannot be overplayed. Spreading good good areas of work taking place across West Yorkshire and Harrogate is key to our Partnership ambitions – better health and care for everyone, everywhere.