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by administrator @, Friday, December 09, 2011, 15:38

New figures have shown that the number of winter deaths across England and Wales has risen by 38 per cent - with poor housing being stated as one of the reasons.

The figures were for the period from December 2010 to January 2011 and were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Surprisingly cold weather as well as poor quality housing and unaffordable energy costs - leaving people in fuel poverty - are among the most important factors explaining the rise.

Excess winter deaths (EWDs) reflect how many more deaths there are during winter months compared with other months of the year. The ONS revealed that EWDs in England and Wales last winter totalled 25,700.

The data shows a dramatic increase in deaths occurring over the period from December 2010 to January 2011 when the country experienced the coldest December on record - with temperatures falling below minus 20oC in parts of the country.

Cold damp housing and unaffordable energy costs are important factors in excess winter mortality with independent research suggesting that at least 10 per cent of these deaths can be attributed to fuel poverty. This represents a higher annual mortality rate - particularly for older people - than that for all road traffic accidents in Great Britain.

Although considered a relatively mild winter, with late January and February temperatures above average, the devastatingly cold weather experienced from late November through to early January saw the number of deaths rise above the national average. The peak came during the first week of January 2011 with almost 3500 more deaths than the five-year average for that time of year.

National Energy Action is warning that a combination of high energy prices, low incomes and poor heating and insulation standards will continue to pose a serious threat to the health of millions of people, especially pensioners, during the coming months.

Jenny Saunders, Chief Executive at NEA said: "This number of excess winter deaths was sadly expected. The figures emphasise that fuel poverty is killing our most vulnerable citizens. Last December was the coldest on record and the spells of severe weather combined with high energy prices had a devastating effect.

"We continue to have one of the highest excess winter death rates in Europe, higher than many of our colder Scandinavian neighbours. The Government needs to step up action that will end these shameful statistics and comprehensively tackle fuel poverty in the UK.

"They need to ensure that their upcoming energy efficiency programme, the Green Deal, fully delivers where it is needed most, improving the comfort levels of homes and providing affordable warmth to vulnerable households."

poor housing

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