An extra payment of £50 to help with the cost of heating should be paid to pensioners with low incomes this winter, a charity has said.
Age Scotland said the money would help more than 130,000 pensioners in the country at a cost of £6.65m.
The charity wrote its demands in a letter to the First Minister and claimed the extra funding to heat homes would help relieve the pressure on the NHS and social care sector this winter.
Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan, said: “An extra £50 could make all the difference to older people usually forced to tighten their belts to make it through the colder months.
“This one-off payment would not only offer much-needed peace of mind when it comes to energy bills, but ensuring older people can keep their homes warm through winter is also a strong preventative measure against respiratory illnesses, stroke and heart attack.
“This winter, Scotland’s health and social care services face unprecedented challenges coping with demand and staff shortages.
“It is clear that further action is needed to protect the NHS and save lives, and we believe this modest investment, which could prevent ill health and the number of people requiring medical treatment, is one worth taking.”
Age Scotland claims, on average, it costs more than £8000 to treat a patient in hospital when admitted in an emergency, which does not include extra costs incurred by health and social care after they have been discharged.
The charity believes that if this payment helps 831 people avoid the need for hospital treatment for conditions linked to the cold, then the measure would pay for itself.
Energy Action Scotland (EAS) said fuel poverty affects more than one in four households in Scotland, particularly homes lived in by elderly people.
Frazer Scott, chief executive of EAS said heating homes at higher temperatures, and for longer time periods, is important for elderly people to maintain their health and wellbeing.
He said: “Energy prices are impacting older people right now and that looks set to continue over the next year.
“More help is needed to reduce GP visits, hospital admission and deaths this winter. Incomes are unable to match rising inflation and rocketing energy costs.
“A one-off payment of £50 to those older people on the lowest incomes will help to save lives. A small price to pay.”
Derek Mitchell, chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “People are facing a perfect storm this winter due to rising energy bills, higher prices in the shops, and the broader problems in the energy market, so we support this proposal from Age Scotland to ensure some protection for older people this winter.
“Making the payment direct as opposed to asking people to apply is also a worthwhile way to deliver this support, as we know older people may face barriers around digital exclusion.
“Ultimately, keeping people warm will also reduce the strain on the health service. The Citizens Advice network in Scotland does lots of work around maximising people’s incomes and we know people avoid associated health problems when they don’t have to choose between paying their energy bills and buying food.”