Doctors could ask patients with coughs and colds about damp and mould in their homes under new scheme aimed at tackling poor housing

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The scheme is aimed at looking holistically at problems with housing and health outcomes in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Patients reporting to doctors surgeries and hospitals with respiratory illnesses could be asked about the condition of their home under a new region-wide initiative.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System (ICS), which is made up of various healthcare organisations, local authorities and voluntary groups, is piloting a new scheme aimed at identifying links between poor housing stock and illness in the area.

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Healthcare professionals will be instructed to ask patients whether their home is cold, damp or mouldy under the scheme, with the aim of then contacting the relevant council, housing association or private rental provider to alert them to the issue.

Damp and mould can lead to coughs and colds and worsen more serious respiratory conditions such as asthmaDamp and mould can lead to coughs and colds and worsen more serious respiratory conditions such as asthma
Damp and mould can lead to coughs and colds and worsen more serious respiratory conditions such as asthma
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The scheme also incorporates healthcare professionals who make home visits and may witness these conditions themselves, as a representative for the Integrated Care Scheme explains.

“We know in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough there are a number of people living in cold, damp and mouldy homes and we know that people are not always reporting the condition of their homes,” a spokesperson said.

“What we’re trying to pilot is a checklist that brings together all frontline workers – that’s ICS workers, social care, local authority etc – so if they go into someone’s home, they can spot the condition of a cold, damp, mouldy home and make the appropriate referral. That might be to the local authority, the third sector or another agency.

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“We’re also trying to work with our ICS colleagues, those working in primary or secondary care, so if they have patients coming through the door – call them frequent flyers – who have respiratory conditions, then they’re asking about the condition of their home and making the appropriate referral.”

The ICS’s aim is to draw together staff from different sectors such as healthcare providers and councils to look holistically at wider problems and their impact on our health.

Identifying links between housing and respiratory problems could guide councils and housing associations towards homes that need intervention due to damp or mould, the ICS says, but could also assist healthcare professionals in diagnosing repository conditions and suggesting treatments.

The pilot has already been rolled out in Cambridge; the wider Cambridgeshire area and Peterborough are next.

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“A task and finish group is being established to roll out the project countywide,” the ICS says.

Damp and mould can cause coughs and colds and can also worsen more serious conditions such as allergies, asthma and chest infections.

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