Charity calls on Chancellor to fund warm homes as vital way to alleviate winter pressures on health and social services

For further information contact Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research at NEA [Mobile: 07595780893 or Email peter.smith@nea.org.uk]

Following a report yesterday by NHS Providers which warned health and social care services face even more stark challenges this winter than the last, charity National Energy Action (NEA) says it’s braced for another huge surge in preventable deaths amongst the frail and elderly. The charity says it is calling on Chancellor to provide emergency support for heating repairs and replacements which they say can help prevent loss of life and help reduce the pressure on health and care services this winter.  

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of NEA said:

“The NHS is trapped in a continual winter crisis. Last year, Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at the time, reported that winter 2017/18 was ‘probably the worst ever’. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, determined that February 2018 was the “most pressurised month the NHS has seen in its nearly 70-year history.”

Due to these pressures, vulnerable people are routinely discharged to unsafe homes with no light or heat, despite national guidance to the contrary. Frail patients are stuck in a vicious circle of admission, discharge and inevitable readmission.

It is imperative the Chancellor finds the money for emergency support for heating repairs and replacements in the Budget. It will keep people safely in their homes, save lives and ease the ‘intolerable pressures facing our health and care services this winter’.

In September, NEA and its sister organisation, Energy Action Scotland (EAS) warned that as many as 1724 extra deaths occurred during the Beast from the East (22nd Feb to 3rd March 2018), across the UK the number the number may even be as high as 2000. The causes varied but up to 570 of the excess deaths were attributable to respiratory diseases, 690 to cardio-vascular diseases and 520 to vulnerable people in cold homes. Beyond preventable deaths the impacts left national and local health and social care services ‘creaking at the seams’. Data for the total number of excess winter deaths occurring over the winter 2017/18 period across the whole of the UK is not yet available. However, applying trends from the data released for England for Jan-March 2018, we can estimate what an increase of 12% compared to the 5-year average in each of the UK nations would look like for the period 1st December 2017 – 31st March 2018: This would mean an estimated total of 36,176 excess winter deaths in the UK in 17/18. Shockingly, therefore, 10,853 people could have died last winter because they were unable to adequately heat their homes. This means that you were almost 10 times more likely to die from a cold home than you were in a road traffic accident. In addition, last week, NEA released a new report on how the health and housing sectors can work together to tackle cold-related ill health. The “Under one Roof” report was published at a conference hosted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Health and Social Care as part of Great Green Britain Week.

ENDS

Notes to the Editors

  1. For more information about NEA visit nea.org.uk.
  2. The NHS Providers report can be found here: http://nhsproviders.org/news-blogs/news/nhs-trusts-braced-for-a-winter-worse-than-last-year.
  3. The links between cold homes and ill heath are now very well recognised. When the temperature falls below 16°C, respiratory function is impaired. When it reaches 12°C increased strain is placed on the cardiovascular system. When the temperature reaches 5-8°C, an increased risk of death can be observed at population level. Whilst cold weather directly triggers these impacts, it can take 3 days after a cold spell for deaths from coronary thrombosis to peak, and 12 days for deaths from respiratory conditions. It can take up to 40 days for deaths to return to average levels.
  4. Between 28th February and the 3rd March 2018 the UK suffered some of the most severe winter weather seen since 2010. Referred to in the media as “the Beast from the East”, the freezing conditions saw the Met Office issue two Red Warnings for snow, and multiple amber warnings for snow and ice across large swathes of the country. There was severe travel disruption, with some cars stranded overnight on major routes. Schools were closed across the country, and thousands of homes suffered power cuts. Some rural communities were entirely cut off, and had to receive supplies by helicopter. Wind chill factors dropped as low as -10 °C, and some areas saw as much as 50cm or more of snow. Day time temperatures dropped as low as -4°C. Across the UK, February and March 2018 saw 101 Cold Weather Payment triggers (£25 automatically paid to eligible households when the average temperature has been recorded as, or is forecast to be, 0°C  or below for seven consecutive days). Many vulnerable households, however, were left stranded without access to support, adding to the already significant annual burden of excess winter mortality and morbidity across the population. The report can be downloaded here: http://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/UK-FPM-2018.pdf, PR here: https://www.nea.org.uk/media/news/new-report-reveals-deadly-impact-beast-east-left-health-social-care-services-creaking-seams/ and the video can be viewed here: https://spark.adobe.com/video/7diMNaCLfOPaG.
  5. The “Under one Roof” report  highlights how some central funding would help sustain crucial activity to reduce pressures on the health service this winter, and complement some limited existing co-funding locally. The report can be read here: http://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NEA-Under-One-Roof-FULL-REPORT.pdf

 

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