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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Winter deaths among elderly rise
Pensioner in front of fire
Hypothermia can be a killer
More and more elderly people are dying unnecessarily during winter cold snaps, a charity has claimed.

Official figures released on Thursday show that excess winter deaths increased by 10% last year.


It is a national disgrace

Gordon Lishman, Age Concern
In total, 27,300 more people than expected died last winter - and of these 25,100 were aged 65 or over.

The charity Age Concern says the number of excess deaths grew because more and more pensioners are unable to heat their homes effectively over winter.

Director General of Age Concern England, Gordon Lishman, criticised the government for leaving the elderly with too little cash to keep warm.

Disgrace

He said: "It is a national disgrace. A large proportion of these (deaths) will be vulnerable older people who die in England and Wales in the winter because of the cold.

"While we welcome the government's initiatives to fight fuel poverty among older people, many of them still cannot afford sufficient heating or they live in housing with inadequate insulation."

Excess winter deaths are the total number of deaths recorded between December and March minus the average mortality rate for the four-month periods preceding and following winter.

Mr Lishman said the government must now increase the level of state pension and pledged that Age Concern would continue to offer vital winter services.

They include benefits advice, luncheon and day club services, emergency heater loans, insulation grants and advice on repairs.

Ministers lambasted

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat spokesman on older people, said: "Ministers should hang their heads in shame at these figures and explain why there has been an increase on last year.

"The government cannot pretend that its winter fuel payments scheme is the answer to this problem because these deaths occurred at a time when pensioners have been receiving winter payments of 200 for two years.

"The oldest, frailest and most vulnerable old people are particularly at risk in the winter.

"The government has consistently refused a substantial increase in pensions.

"Pensioner poverty and living conditions must be addressed as a matter of urgency."

The ONS report said although the excess winter deaths figure was up, it was still low when compared with previous years.

It said the winters of 1998.99 and 1999/2000 recorded excess deaths of 46,840 and 48,440 respectively.

See also:

30 Sep 02 | Health
11 Jan 02 | Health
19 Sep 00 | Health
10 Feb 99 | Medical notes
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