Don't miss out on vital help with your energy services – that's the message from health and care leaders to patients who rely on power for their health.
The new Stay Switched On campaign, supported by the NHS and the region's Association of Directors of Public Health, is calling on patients who need extra help to sign up to their energy supplier's priority services register.
Samantha Allen, chief executive of the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "It's a tough winter for many people, particularly people who need extra support. If you rely on power for essential medical equipment, a health condition or if you struggle to get to the door in an emergency, access your meter or read your energy bills, your supplier can help.
"A disrupted energy supply can have a big impact on vulnerable patients, and we want to make sure people have the support they need. Getting registered means your supplier knows who you are and what help you need.
"Good health is not just about treating sickness – it's also about keeping well. We have already contacted Ofgem to raise concerns about the risks that any disruption of energy supply means for the health of our most vulnerable patients."
The priority services register is a free service that helps suppliers know which customers need extra support. This could be because of your age, a disability, if you have an illness or mental health problems, have communication needs, or there have been changes in your life (such as pregnancy or if you have children under the age of five).
Tom Hall, director of public health at South Tyneside Council, added: “Joining the priority services register enables you to get extra help at difficult moments - for example, if there's a power cut, they can make welfare calls to anyone needing to use medical equipment.
"It’s a simple step that could provide extra peace of mind in a difficult winter. If you know anyone who could benefit from joining the register, please let them know and encourage them to sign up."
All you need to do is contact your energy supplier using phone, app or website, and ask to be put on their priority services register. If you're eligible, they can help with things like advance notice of power cuts, priority support in an emergency, or sending bills to a family member or carer.
You can also find out more and sign up via www.energynetworks.org/be-winter-ready. If you have different suppliers for gas and electricity, you need to contact them both. If you switch supplier in the future, you'll need to register again.
Neil Lawrence, Director of Retail at Ofgem, said: “We know this is going to be a tougher winter than usual for a lot of people, so it’s vital that customers get all the support available for them. We want to urge people to check with their supplier whether they may benefit from services available through the Priority Services Register - we know that not everyone eligible is currently benefitting.
"This can help with everything from tailored customer care, benefit checks, more accessible formats for energy bills, more frequent meter reading and free gas safety checks. Suppliers should also be proactive and reach out to vulnerable customers wherever possible, and it’s great to see this happening in places already.”
You can get extra support if you:
- Are disabled or have a long-term health condition
- Have a hearing or sight condition
- Have a mental health condition
- Are recovering from an injury
- Are pregnant or have children under five living with you
- Have extra communication needs (such as if you don't speak or read English well)
- Need to use medical equipment that requires a power supply
- Have reached your state pension age
- Have poor or no sense of smell
- Would struggle to answer the door or get help in an emergency
You might still be able to register for other reasons if your situation is not listed - for example, if you need short-term support after a stay in hospital. You can find out more about the priority services register on the Ofgem website.
The campaign, which will continue through the rest of the winter, aims to build on work already done by councils, the NHS and voluntary sector organisations in the region.