Health report reveals number of South West winter deaths

PUBLISHED: 11:59 15 December 2008 | UPDATED: 10:11 10 June 2010

A REPORT published by South West Public Health Observatory has revealed 2,600 more people died in the South West during the winter of 2007/2008 than at other times of the year.

A REPORT published by South West Public Health Observatory has revealed

2,600 more people died in the South West during the winter of 2007/2008 than at other times of the year.

The report which is entitled: Fighting winter cold in the South West: reducing health inequalities also highlights that:

* Some 93 per cent of excess winter deaths occur in people aged 65 or over and half of the people who died prematurely in the winter months over the past 10 years were 85 years old or older. This percentage was higher in the South West (52 per cent) than for England (46 per cent).

* About two thirds of the excess winter deaths are due to heart and lung conditions usually in people who are already very frail.

* In 2006, there were over a quarter of a million households in fuel poverty in the region - meaning that people were unable to afford to heat their homes to the level required for their health, comfort and warmth. Nationally, single people over 60 accounted for the highest proportion (38 per cent) of households in fuel poverty.

* At the last Census 11 per cent of homes throughout the region did not have central heating but this was as high as 22 per cent in Cornwall. 43 per cent of all houses in the South West either do not have cavity walls or have unfilled cavity walls.

Dr Gabriel Scally, regional director of public health at NHS South West said:

"Deaths in the winter months are higher than at other times of the year and these figures show quite clearly how vulnerable particularly the elderly are when temperatures plummet and homes are not adequately heated.

"This winter there is a particular cause for concern because of rising energy prices and the growing number of fuel poor.

"Although excess winter deaths continue to fall, there are still too many in the South West.

The NHS has a number of initiatives in place to help people keep warm this winter.

"We are encouraging people age 65 or over and others in 'at risk' groups to take up the offer of free flu vaccines to help protect against severe winter chest infections," added Dr Scally.

"We are encouraging health and social workers to identify vulnerable older adults either at flu vaccine appointments or during home visits and give them information about winter warmth and refer them if appropriate to the warm front scheme.

"Primary Care Trusts are also signing up to the Met Office's healthy outlook COPD forecast alert service which helps people with respiratory disease be prepared for a cold spell of weather.


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