Better Housing

GCHU Co-Director Professor Carl Heneghan discusses the results of the recent ONS report on the impact of winter pressures in Great Britain.

Professor Carl Heneghan

Co-Director, GCHU, Kellogg College, University of Oxford

Email: [email protected]

In today’s Sunday Express, Lucy Johnston interviewed me about the latest ONS report: Tracking the impact of winter pressures in Great Britain: November 2022 to February 2023.

Published last week, its results went largely unnoticed.

“Around 1 in 5 adults reported that they were occasionally, hardly ever or never able to keep comfortably warm in the past two weeks. For those in the most deprived areas, the figures were even worse.”

I’d been to the Houses of Parliament the preceding week to an All Parliamentary Party Group meeting on the Healthy Homes Healthy Britain campaign. You can read the minutes here.

Firstly, there’s a Healthy Homes Bill arising from the House of Lords that aims to make “provisions about targets, plans and policies for the delivery of healthy homes and neighbourhoods; to set out the principles that define a “healthy home”; to make provision for statements and reports about healthy homes; to establish the office of the Healthy Homes Commissioner.”

But although there’s a lot of support for the bill, the government is disinterested and won’t give it time. Despite evidence that the UK housing stock is in a dire state: In the privately rented sector, 1.6 million homes fail to meet the decent housing standard, there are over half a million overcrowded households, and the estimated cost to the NHS caused by poor housing could be as much as £2.5bn per year.

We’ve also previously written about the problem of cold homes.

“For example, if maintaining a constant home temperature of at least 18 degrees prevents morbidity and deaths, should we not provide a realistic allowance to cover all heating costs to those most in need? If proven to be cost-effective – then we might consider heating prescriptions. In the meantime, the vulnerable will be left shivering in the cold: the NHS will be left to pick up the bill.”

Roughly 700,000 homes in England are defined as excessively cold, and the costs to the NHS are reckoned to be over £540 million a year for those affected by the worst properties.

‘“Most of the U.K.’s housing stock is not fit for purpose, and many people don’t have efficient insulation or double glazing. Our housing stock needs a retrofit, but no one wants to pay for it, and those at the lower end of society can’t afford it. We need a national action plan like the Marshall plan to sort it out.” 31 April 2023, Sunday Express

Therefore, it isn’t much of an intuitive leap to think we need to improve the housing stock and ensure those worst off can stay warm.

This blog was originally published on 1st May 2023 at