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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 16:20 GMT
'Hundreds' die from cold
Old man
There were about 268 deaths in the East
More than 260 people are likely to have died from the recent cold spell in the East of England, according to figures published on Tuesday.

The Faculty of Public Health and the Met Office claim about 268 people had probably died "unnecessarily" as a result of the cold during the past week.

The report blamed the problem on damp and cold housing and the result of fuel poverty - when people do not have enough money to spend on heating their homes properly.

It also noted that the elderly, young and disabled were the most at risk with 95% of deaths occurring among the elderly.

It is now urging the government make the situation a priority.

Age Concern in the East believes the government needs to start by focusing on making sure the elderly are getting all the benefits they are entitled to.

A high proportion of preventable illness and deaths in the UK are caused by people living in damp and cold housing.
Professor Sian Griffiths, the faculty's president
The group says this would allow the elderly to switch the heating up without fear of a large gas or electricity bill they cannot afford.

While a cold snap has brought snow and ice to parts of the region, many people are reluctant to turn up their heating, said Rex Humphrey from Age Concern in Norfolk.

He wants to ensure everyone is getting the money they are allowed in order to quash the fear of high heating bills.

Mr Humphrey said: "With the advent of pensioner credits we know there are thousands of people entitled to extra income they are not claiming.

"We urge people to make sure they are getting all their benefits and to turn on their heating and keep warm."

Preventable illnesses

The report said the cold weather is thought to have probably claimed about 2,500 lives across England and Wales in total.

Most people would have died from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, said the faculty of public health.

Professor Sian Griffiths, the faculty's president, said: "A high proportion of preventable illness and deaths in the UK are caused by people living in damp and cold housing.

"If we see much more of the cold weather of recent days, it is likely that as many as 50,000 people will die unnecessarily over this winter."


SEE ALSO:
Cold weather 'killed thousands'
30 Oct 03  |  Health


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