Patient 'turned oxygen off due to unaffordable electricity bill'

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A doctors’ receptionist was left in tears when a patient told her she was turning off her oxygen because she could not afford her electricity bill, a health boss has revealed.

Laura Sharpe, chief executive of City and Hackney GP Federation, said the receptionist was concerned about the elderly patient, who had told her GP practice that she didn’t have the money for oxygen.

Patients use home oxygen therapy when they do not have enough oxygen in their blood. It is used for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, severe long term asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Some machines that deliver oxygen do not require a power source.

Sharpe said: “We need to think quite quickly and radically about how we do that joined-up working so that receptionist can give that lady some hope and advice.”

Homerton Hospital’s chief nurse Catherine Pelley said: “It is affecting more and more people. We need to think about how we prepare for the winter, because it is going to get worse.

“We know there’s going to be a further hike in fuel. We know it’s disproportionately affecting people on lower incomes because of the amount of money they spend on fuel.”

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She said it was important to think about the cost of living for residents and the workforce.

Councillor Chris Kennedy, who chairs the City and Hackney integrated care partnership board, said the council has a fuel voucher payment scheme. 

“Every doctors’ receptionist, everyone on the frontline interfacing with people in those highly vulnerable situation needs to know that,” he said, adding that the council will make sure the information is at NHS workers’ fingertips.

Recently, members of the Royal Free Hospital board discussed their concerns about the cost-of-living crisis.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital board is worried about families being able to afford travel for children to get to hospital, and about ways to signpost help.

The City and Hackney integrated care partnership board today said it was important to provide information for patients and staff hit by rising energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis.

Hackney Council’s director of adults, health and integration, Helen Woodland, asked health professionals to contact her team about patients in “very challenging circumstances”.

She said the Here to Help team can look at how to maximise people’s benefits. Their phone line is 020 8356 3111.