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Charity: Rising winter deaths cause for 'national shame'

Charity Age UK has said that the ONS figures on rising winter deaths should be cause for "national shame" because of a "failure to address the scandal of cold homes" in the UK.

It should be a cause of national shame that last year’s cold weather claimed so many lives unnecessarily. Excess winter deaths are preventable and today’s figures are a damning indictment of our failure to address the scandal of cold homes in this country.

Cold homes are caused by a number of factors including poor insulation and high energy costs, and are a major cause of excess winter deaths.1 In fact those living in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die a preventable death than those living in warmer ones.

– Age UK’s Charity Director, Caroline Abrahams,

Majority of winter deaths among pensioners

The majority of winter deaths reported by the ONS were among pensioners with over-75s accounting for 25,600 winter-related deaths in 2012/13.

Deaths peaked in the first week of January. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Deaths were highest in the North West in 2012/13 and lowest in London.

"The number of deaths peaked in the first week of January, which coincided with a peak in rates of influenza-like illness over the Christmas weeks," the ONS report said.

Read: 31,000 excess winter deaths

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'24,000 avoidable deaths' each winter

The Cold Weather Plan for England says there are "too many avoidable deaths each winter", with just over 24,000 each year in England and Wales.

The plan was published by Public Health England in collaboration with the Department of Health, NHS England and the Local Government Association.

In colder weather, keeping yourself warm is essential to staying healthy, especially for the very young, older people or those with a chronic condition such as heart disease and asthma.

There are a range of health problems associated with cold housing and winter weather, but in particular, a cold indoor or outdoor environment can make heart and respiratory problems worse, and can be fatal.

– Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at Public Health England

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Plan to tackle avoidable deaths in winter

The Government is urging people to use their heating this winter as part of a plan to prevent some of the thousands of avoidable deaths that occur each year.

The Cold Weather Plan for England recommends:

  • People should keep their homes warm, with living room temperatures of 21C and bedrooms and the rest of the house heated to 18C
  • If people are unable to afford to heat all their rooms, they should heat their living room during the day and bedrooms just before going to bed
  • Those eligible for a flu jab should get one
  • Measures should be taken to reduce heat waste, such as fitting draught-proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors
  • People should look after themselves with plenty of hot food and drinks, five portions a day of fruit and veg, and wearing layers
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Your latest winter pictures

The frozen water fountain at Wisbech church in Cambridgeshire Credit: Michael Woods

The Anglia Weather correspondent at Potter Heigham in Norfolk recorded nearly 10cm or 4 inches of snow on Thursday night.

Overnight snow pictured at 6.30am at Weston near Beccles in Suffolk Credit: Stella Cattermole
A barn owl in flight at Hardley marshes near Loddon in Norfolk Credit: Norman Wyatt

For more of your weather pictures click here.

A snow-covered garden in Old Catton near Norwich Credit: Maralyn Uren

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