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Wales had 'highest rate of winter deaths' anywhere in UK charity warns

Credit: PA

Wales had the highest rate of winter deaths last winter compared to anywhere else in the UK, according to The British Lung Foundation.

The charity said 32.8% more people died in the winter of 2017/2018 compared to the summer of the same year.

According to their figures, that makes the number of excess winter deaths last year the highest recorded since the winter of 1975/1976.

32.8%
More deaths last winter compared to last summer.
45.1%
More deaths in the winter of 2017/2018 compared to the winter of 2016/2017.

Head of the British Lung Foundation in Wales, Joseph Carter, said "respiratory disease continues to be a huge challenge in Wales".

According to the charity, respiratory diseases were the primary cause of winter deaths last year.

Respiratory disease continues to be a huge challenge in Wales, with more people living with conditions like asthma or COPD than anywhere else in the UK.

Of hospital admissions for flu during the winter period, 50% of adult patients had an underlying chronic respiratory disease.

The Welsh Government have made uptake of the flu vaccine for those people living with a lung condition a priority, but figures have remained static for the last five years.

Only 46% of those with a lung condition were vaccinated last year, leaving thousands at risk.

– Joseph Carter, Head of the British Lung Foundation Wales
Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said last winter 'was exceptionally difficult'. Credit: PA

Responding to the figures, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Winter death figures are prone to fluctuation and should be treated with caution". They added that "the reasons behind deaths are complex and varied".

Figures from Public Health Wales show the percentage of people getting a flu vaccine was higher in 2017/2018 than the year before.

We are working to improve flu vaccination rates among people with chronic respiratory conditions.

The 2018/2019 flu season has just started and it’s not too late for people, in particular those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is the single best way to protect against catching and spreading flu.

– Welsh Government Spokesperson

The figures came on the same day Vaughan Gething released a statement with an update on this year's winter pressures.

The Health Secretary said: "Following the evaluation of winter 2017/18, there is increased recognition of the need for national leadership and support".

Addressing the demands on the service last winter, the Health Secretary said: "We have been open that last winter was exceptionally difficult and we saw spikes in demand which, at times, were unprecedented, which impacted on the ability of services to manage and cope with demand and saw performance against key indicators deteriorate".