Health Chiefs urge energy vulnerable residents to sign up to priority registers to ensure medical equipment maintains power
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Earlier this month (January) we spoke with Katy Jones whose daughter Hannah, 10, relies on a feeding machine to keep her alive and additional refrigerator in which to store her solution based food and medication.
In the last two years the family have seen their energy bills rocket from £180 per month to £687, leaving the them “struggling to make ends meet”.
Katy, 32, said: “Running the fridge and the machine isn’t a choice as for Hannah, it’s the difference between life and death.”
To support people in Katy’s situation, the NHS Integrated Care Board North East and North Cumbria have joined forces with the region’s directors of public health to launch the Stay Switched on Campaign.
The initiative looks to ensure energy vulnerable households sign up to priority registers which “helps suppliers know which customers need extra support”.
The service will ensure priority notice and support linked to any potential power cuts, support in emergency situations and being fast-tracked to contact a network representative when needing help.
Other priority services include installation or relocation of prepayment meters and access to emergency credit to ensure vital life supporting equipment is always supplied.
Samantha Allen, chief executive of the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "It's a tough winter for many people, particularly people who need extra support.
"If you rely on power for essential medical equipment, a health condition or struggle to get to the door in an emergency, access your meter or read your energy bills, your supplier can help.
"A disrupted energy supply can have a big impact on vulnerable patients, and we want to make sure people have the support they need. Getting registered means your supplier knows who you are and what help you need.
"Good health is not just about treating sickness, it's also about keeping well. We’ve already contacted Ofgem to raise concerns about the risks any disruption of energy supply means for the health of our most vulnerable patients."
Tom Hall, director of public health at South Tyneside Council, added: "Joining the priority services register enables you to get extra help at difficult moments. For example, if there's a power cut, they can make welfare calls to anyone needing to use medical equipment.
"It’s a simple step that could provide extra peace of mind in a difficult winter. If you know anyone who could benefit from joining the register, please let them know."
Households eligible for the register includes anyone who is disabled or has a long-term health condition, need to use medical equipment that requires a power supply, are pregnant or have children under five living with them, or are state pension age.
Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem, said: "We urge people to check with their supplier whether they may benefit from services available through the Priority Services Register. We know that not everyone eligible is currently benefiting.
"This can help with everything from tailored customer care, benefit checks, more accessible formats for energy bills, more frequent meter reading and free gas safety checks."
Further information can be found on the Ofgem website.