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Hazards in England’s Homes Cost NHS £401m Per Year

Hazards in England’s Homes Cost NHS £401m Per Year
06 April 2023 | Updated 05 April 2023

Research from the Building Research Establishment shows that hazards which cause occupants to fall and injure themselves in the poorest quality homes in England are costing the NHS £401 million a year.

This analysis comes from the Building Research Establishment’s (BRE) recent report, “The Cost of Poor Housing by Tenure in England”, which for the first time provides a breakdown of the impact of poor housing on the NHS between the owner-occupied, privately rented, and socially rented sectors.

Poor housing due to unsafe stairs is of particular concern for our ageing society. The average age of a homeowner is 58, with a third 65 years or over, while over half (54 per cent) of social renters have one or more household members with a long-term illness or disability. Falls prevention is therefore critical to deliver safer housing as well as reduce the cost burden to the NHS.

BRE’s analysis found that most of these hazards are inexpensive to fix and could provide a quick payback to the NHS if an investment was made. Installing handrails on dangerous stairs could prevent over half of falls on stairs hazards in owner-occupied homes. Overall, rectifying these types of hazards in all tenures would cost almost £2 billion.

Following its latest report, BRE will be publishing a 30-year cost-benefit analysis on the cost of all poor housing to the NHS and wider society later in 2023.


Falls on Stairs Most Common Hazard


Falls on stairs were the most common Category 1 hazard across the different tenures which BRE explored as part of its analysis.

Staircases and unsafe external steps in just over one million properties posed a risk to occupants, with these being more prevalent than falls on the level and falls between levels.

Over 680,000 owner-occupied homes had a Category 1 hazard which could cause people to fall on their staircase, while the same is true of around 251,000 private rented and 80,000 social rented properties.

Gillian Charlesworth, CEO, BRE, said: “Our analysis shows just how acute hazards in the home are, particularly those that cause people to fall and injure themselves – yet falls are often an overlooked cause of injury. While many will not result in a serious injury, falls can be particularly dangerous for older people. If their homes aren’t safe, then it can take a long time for them to be discharged from hospital.

“Hazards that cause falls can be easily mitigated to improve the safety of homes and reduce the cost burden to the NHS over a relatively quick period.

“I would encourage everyone who regularly visits older relatives and friends to check that there is a secure handrail on the staircase and any external steps. We would also welcome greater financial support from national and local government to ensure that older people can safely stay in their own homes.”

Picture: a photograph of a hallway in a residential property showing stairs and the front door. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 06 April 2023


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