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Winter deaths fall to record low

29 October 08 15:02 GMT

The number of winter deaths in Scotland fell last year, latest figures showed.

The seasonal difference - the increased number of deaths in winter compared to the rest of the year - was 2,180, down from the previous year's 2,750.

Statistics from the Registrar General showed there were 19,900 deaths in Scotland over the period December 2007 to March 2008.

This was down from the total of 20,384 for the same period in 2006-07 and the lowest for half a century.

Registrar General for Scotland Duncan Macniven said: "The seasonal difference in the number of deaths last winter was the fifth lowest in the 57 years for which we have such statistics."

He said the lowest increase in deaths over the winter period had been in 2005-06, when the seasonal difference was 1,780, and that the second lowest was in 2001-02, when it was 1,840.

He added: "The past seven years have seen three of the five lowest seasonal differences in a series that goes back to 1951-52.

"The long-term trend is clearly downward, but the figures can fluctuate from year to year.

"The additional number of deaths last winter was only about two fifths of the figure for the winter of 1999-2000, which was the last time there was a bad outbreak of flu."

Of the 2,180 additional deaths last winter, most were among the elderly, with 850 in those aged 85 and over, 880 in the 75 to 84 age range, 320 in the 65 to 74 age group and 130 in those aged 64 and under.

'Cold snap'

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was determined to continue to drive the number of winter deaths down.

Ms Sturgeon said: "These are the fifth lowest annual figures in over half a century of the statistics being available, yet clearly any level of excess winter deaths is unacceptable - especially in an energy-rich nation like Scotland."

She said the government was investing a further £10m in the central heating programme this year, and was also expanding the scheme - which currently benefits pensioners - to include some families on benefits.

But she also called for action from the UK Government.

Ms Sturgeon said: "We are facing an extremely cold snap in Scotland, and it is time for the UK Government to take action on energy prices this winter - not tomorrow, but now."

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