Nine pensioners died from cold EVERY HOUR last winter as bill prices soar
By SEAN POULTER, CONSUMER AFFAIRS EDITOR Last updated at 10:51 AM on 24th November 2010
All Brits have to subsidize the vast windmill craze through their power bills
Nine elderly people died every hour from cold-related illnesses last winter against a background of soaring energy bills. Official figures show the number of deaths linked to cold over the four-month period reached 25,400 in England and Wales, plus 2,760 in Scotland.
Charities and energy company critics claim the UK has the highest winter death rate in northern Europe, even worse than much colder countries such as Finland and Sweden.
There are fears the toll could rise this year following a recent barrage of price rises that may frighten elderly people into not turning on their heating.
While the UK death rate is high, the total was down by around 30 per cent compared with 2008/9 because there were fewer flu outbreaks, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Dot Gibson, of the National Pensioners Convention, said: ‘Since 1997 we have lost more than 300,000 pensioners during the winter months because of cold-related illnesses, yet the Government seems incapable of acting. No other section of our society is so vulnerable and treated so badly. ‘Pensioners see rising fuel bills and are constantly worried about whether or not they can afford to put their heating on.’ She added: ‘Around 3.5million pensioner households are spending more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel bills and are living in fuel poverty.’
The Coalition government has kept the last administration’s Winter Fuel Allowance payments of £250 for pensioners and £400 for those over 80. But the allowance should be raised, said Miss Gibson, adding: ‘What these people need now is more money so they can avoid having to decide whether to heat or eat.’
Maria Wardrobe, of the charity National Energy Action, said: ‘Britain still has the highest number of excess winter deaths in northern Europe which is a national disgrace, and more needs to be done to tackle the problem of fuel poverty. ‘Those most at risk to the effects of cold weather must not have to make a choice over whether to heat their homes or end up ill and in debt to their energy supplier.’
Dave Timms, from Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Living in a cold, damp house can make heart disease and strokes more likely. It’s a disgrace that millions of vulnerable people in Britain live in homes lacking basic insulation.’ He said the Government’s Energy Bill, which is to be published next month, should include a programme to insulate all the nation’s homes.
Michelle Mitchell, director of the charity Age UK, said:'It’s still unacceptable that in this day and age tens of thousands more older people die in this country every winter from the effects of the cold weather.
'As another winter sets in, plummeting temperatures will once again spell misery, ill-health and, in some cases, even death for too many people in later life across the country.
'The simple fact that the UK has one of the highest winter mortality rates in Europe – higher than even Sweden or Finland – makes it clear this is very much a home-grown problem. 'These are avoidable deaths due not just to the cold weather in itself but to the country’s inability to meet the challenge of dropping temperatures.'
Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘Information to help vulnerable people keep warm and well will be made available to GP surgeries and local organisations. 'The elderly, and those who are ill, are particularly vulnerable during cold weather. 'We all have a role to play in remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk especially at this time of year.’