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Last Updated: Friday, 27 October 2006, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
'Winter death toll' drops by 19%
Snow scene
The figures are based on death rates in the coldest months
Deaths in England and Wales fell to 25,700 last winter, a decline of 19% on the previous year.

Office for National Statistics data shows the rate, which hit 31,640 in 2004/2005, is back to similar levels as the previous four years.

Statisticians look at deaths between December and March, and compare them to those during the rest of the year.

Age Concern and Help the Aged both said more needs to be done to help older people faced with rising heating costs.

There were 23,450 excess winter deaths in 2003/2004 and 23,970 in 2002/2003. In the winters of 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, there were 46,840 and 48,440 excess deaths respectively.

Fuel poverty

Age Concern said nearly 90% of all excess winter deaths are of people over the age of 65.

More than 150,000 over 65s have died during the winters of past six years, it said.

"It is a national scandal that so many people over 65 are put at risk every winter," said Gordon Lishman, Age Concern's director general.

Despite these new figures, many pensioners still agonise about whether or not to heat their homes
Steve Jones, Help the Aged

"The Government must ensure that decent housing, energy efficiency measures and a higher basic state pension are in place to help older people stay warm."

Along with Help the Aged, it is calling for on an increase in the government's 200 winter fuel payment.

Steve Jones, director of communications at Help the Aged said: "The numbers of excess winter deaths may well be falling, but the rates of fuel poverty are climbing ever higher.

"Despite these new figures, many pensioners still agonise about whether or not to heat their homes in the cold weather. In the world's fourth richest country, this is simply shameful.

"It's now time for Gordon Brown to put our money where his mouth is and increase the state pension or offer a winter fuel payment that properly combats the recent rise in fuel poverty."

Flu jabs

Studies show elderly people, and particularly those on low incomes, are at the greatest risk in the winter.

The majority of deaths are said to be due to strokes and heart attacks, followed by respiratory infections such as flu.

The NHS is helping people, particularly the most vulnerable, to stay healthy during winter
Department of Health

The Department of Health said winter fuel and cold weather payments and publicity campaigns have helped older people to lead healthier lives.

"The NHS is helping people, particularly the most vulnerable, to stay healthy during winter," a spokesperson added.

Occurrences of flu were below seasonal averages following the highest take up of flu jabs by the over 65s, it said.

Separate statistics from the Registrar General for Scotland show the nation's winter death toll was the lowest on record.

Deaths fell by nearly 1,000 to 1,790 following a mild winter with no serious flu outbreak.

Meanwhile, ONS data indicate diseases of the circulatory system and cancer made up more than 60% of all deaths in England and Wales in 2005. Such causes continued to show a decline.

Overall, there were 512,692 deaths in England and Wales in 2005 - 243,324 males and 269,368 females.

There were 3,259 infant deaths in 2005, compared with 3,219 in the previous year, equating to five deaths per 1,000 live births, the same rate as in 2004.

Rise seen in winter deaths toll
27 Oct 05 |  Health

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