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Editor,—The annotation by McKenzie1 on housing and health offers a useful review of the literature, and some sensible advice. However, the ensuing commentary by Paton depicts housing departments as uncaring, ill informed, and reluctant to spend money or take action unless forced to do so by superior medical expertise or threats of litigation.
We suggest that this attitude is out of step with current thinking about multiagency working and collaboration between health and local authorities. While we do not doubt that there are housing officers like those known to Dr Paton, doctors may find that they can help their patients more by seeking a constructive relationship with the housing department. They will find that housing officers are valuable professional colleagues who in their own field are as up to date and well informed as most health professionals, and whose wish to do a good job is also constrained by shortage of resources.
In Sheffield City Council’s Housing Service, assessments for rehousing on medical grounds are carried out in the applicants’ own homes by staff who are generally trained nurses and have a broad experience of the council’s housing stock.
Most people are well able to describe their own medical conditions and how these relate to their housing. Where there is any doubt, the rehousing visitor consults the relevant health professional. If the applicant requests a review or appeal of the original decision, the Housing Service initially consults a consultant in public health medicine and then a local general practitioner before reaching a final decision.