24,000 'died because of cold homes' last winter: Fears grow that figure could be higher this year because of spiralling bills
'Excess winter deaths' figures were published yesterday with majority of victims over 75Cold homes are known to exacerbate underlying medical conditions in the elderly
07:41 GMT, 30 November 2012
Spiralling energy bills contributed to 24,000 deaths last winter, as many elderly people cut back on their heating.
The shocking toll will increase fears that the number will be even higher this year because of further increases in energy bills and warnings of a particularly cold winter.
The figures for ‘excess winter deaths’, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, reveal the majority of victims were over 75.
Bills to blame: Sprialling energy bills have contributed to 24,000 deaths last winter, as many elderly people cut back on their heating
Cold homes, caused by factors including high energy costs and poor insulation, are known to exacerbate a number of underlying medical conditions in the elderly, leading to more deaths during the winter.
A recent report by Age UK estimated that cold homes are costing the NHS in England 1.36billion a year in treatments, mostly for cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks.
The 24,000 figure relates to the period from December to the end of March – which was a relatively mild winter.
Britain experiences much higher death rates than countries in Scandinavia which have much colder winters but where there has been huge investment in insulating homes.
Maria Wardrobe, of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action, said: ‘The figures demonstrate that if you are a vulnerable person living in England or Wales then even a comparatively mild winter can still be deadly.
'Every single excess winter death is preventable'
‘The fact that our Scandinavian
neighbours experience much harsher winters and have nowhere near the
same level of winter deaths means that we should not accept this as
Excess deaths for winter 2011/12 were
down by 8 per cent compared with the previous year but Michelle
Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, said the numbers were
still unacceptably high.
She said: ‘Every single excess winter death is preventable.
Unacceptable: People living in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die a preventable death than those living in warmer ones
‘Those living in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die a preventable death than those living in warmer ones.
only way to make a sustained and long-term impact on excess winter
deaths is by investing in making Britain’s homes more energy-efficient.
‘The Government must also invest in a major energy-efficiency programme to help insulate older people against the cold weather and the high cost of energy.’
Dave Timms, of Friends of the Earth’s Warm Homes campaign, also called for government action, saying: ‘The Government must take action to tackle this homemade humanitarian disaster by ensuring we all have warm and energy-efficient homes.’
Saga’s director general, Dr Ros Altmann, described the figure as shocking and called for action on prohibitively expensive energy bills.
She said: ‘Much more needs to be done. In a survey of 8,500 over-50s, 58 per cent were already worrying about the costs of heating their homes this winter and more than a third were already struggling with heating bills.
‘Energy prices are already much higher than last winter and they are predicted to rise further which could leave many more older people at risk.’