The issue of excess winter deaths was once again pulled into the spotlight yesterday after Labour MP Dan Jarvis raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Figures published by the Office of National Statistics in November showed that an estimated 43,900 people died as a result of the cold last winter, which was the highest number recorded since 1999/2000. Calling the figures “appalling” and “avoidable”, Jarvis asked the Prime Minister to explain what the government was doing to counteract the growing numbers.
Cameron replied by saying the excess winter death rates served as “a standing rebuke to all governments on what more needs to be done” and said the government was addressing the issue through cold weather payments, winter fuel allowances and increased pensions.
He also claimed falling energy prices resulting purely from falling oil prices were making a difference, as well as the growth of independent energy suppliers and changes to home improvement schemes.
Since David Cameron was elected Prime Minister in 2010, almost 143,000 people are estimated to have died due to the winter cold. While these figures have fluctuated each year, the latest figure represents a significant increase on the 18,200 recorded in the winter of 2013/14. The majority of last winter’s victims were aged 75 or over, suggesting enough is not being done to protect the country’s aging population.
This worrying statistic is made worse by the publication of a new survey which found that one in five (20%) of the nation aged 65 and over admit to not using their heating despite feeling cold, and over a third (34%) ration their heating usage. The survey from comparethemarket.com also found that 12% admitted to worrying about getting seriously ill this winter as a result of not using heating when cold.
The government’s ECO policy is currently the only initiative in place to deliver improvements to people’s homes following the collapse of the Green Deal last year. In November last year, Age UK called on the Westminster to take “urgent action” to protect elderly home owners with improved heating and efficiency measures.