GPs should be able to prescribe home improvements for older people to improve their quality of life, according to a disability charity.
The Papworth Trust has said family doctors should have the ability to recommend adaptations to help out people with reduced mobility or other domestic concerns.
The charity argues that the proposal could save money in the long term by boosting the conditions for living for people who might otherwise struggle to get around their own homes. This comes in the wake of a study of 600 older and disabled people showed that a quarter of them did not feel they could get around their homes safely.
The East of England home improvement agencies charity said living in unsuitable housing meant that older people needed increased support from the public. The report claimed that elderly people in particular are more like to turn to their family doctor than their council when they have health problems. This highlighted a necessary culture change where doctors would have no problems in prescribing minor changes to dwelling places to help out their patients.
The Papworth Trust's Paul McCay criticised the current system's inefficiency, saying that it did not take a long view with regards to possible future savings that could be made from any investment in home adaptations. The idea had "low awareness", with two-thirds of older people not having heard of the grants they can take advantage of to improve their surroundings.
He said that the key recommendation is for health and social services to share responsibility for adapting homes - so, as GPs would provide the first point of contact for older people's health needs, they could further help them out by examining the possibility of home improvements to preventing accidents or ill health. The proposal could also help raise awareness of the care planning needs of older people, as well as saving the taxpayer money in the long term.