Experts meet to discuss new ways to save lives and reduce strain on health and care services this winter

Leading fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) has released a report into how the health and housing sectors can work together to tackle cold-related ill health. The report is being released 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. The authors say it shines a light on new ways to save lives and reduce strain health and care services this winter.

 Speaking at the event Adam Scorer, Chief Executive at NEA will say:

‘Over the coming winter cold homes will kill and cause serious cardiovascular and respiratory disease; mental health; and other health conditions across all . age groups. It has been estimated that the overall cost to the NHS of poor housing containing category 1 hazards is £1.4bn per year. These homes kill 10 times more people than road traffic accidents and yet we don’t have the necessary and  consistent cross-organisational work at a scale sufficient to make a serious impact. If policy-makers were to adopt the recommendations outlined in Under One Roof, we firmly believe that it would greatly reduce fuel poverty and strain on the NHS”.

Under One Roof was by produced by NEA for Liverpool City Council, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The report outlines current health impacts on householders living in the coldest housing stock within the UK which has a potentially deadly impact on some of the most vulnerable members of society. The report outlines evidence that organisations can use to gain funding and high-level support to support vulnerable energy consumers on the ground.  Under One Roof also has various recommendations to policy-makers to enable cross-working between the health and housing sectors who often work in isolation when it comes to tackling fuel poverty.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool adds:

“In this day and age people should not need to live in cold, damp homes like the ones I grew up in. Through the work of our Healthy Homes, Landlord Licensing, Benefits Maximisation teams and the Mayor’s Hope Fund charity we see daily and first-hand the poor conditions that still exist hidden away in our cities. We have to make poor quality homes a thing of the past.    The impact on, for example, mental health can be huge when people have to choose between heating and food. It will be clear to anyone who has ever sat down with a vulnerable householder that this work needs to be carried out more consistently, on a bigger scale, over a sustained period, and with all organisations committing to the investment that will eradicate this problem together.”

William Baker, Energy Advice Lead at Citizens Advice added:

“Living in a cold home puts people’s health at risk. The solution is to help people stay well and warm at home.  We’re working with health and social care teams to make sure people at risk can heat and power their homes affordably.”

The Under One Roof report can be read here: http://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NEA-Under-One-Roof-FULL-REPORT.pdf.

ENDS

Notes for editors:

  1. National Energy Action (NEA) works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to live in a warm, safe home. To achieve this we aim to improve access to energy and debt advice, provide training, support energy efficiency policies, local projects and co-ordinate other related services which can help change lives. NEA also provide the secretariat for the All-Party Fuel Poverty & Energy Efficiency Group in Parliament to raise awareness of the problem of fuel poverty and the policies needed to eradicate it.
  2. Last month NEA warned that between 28th February and the 3rd March 2018 the severe cold weather caused a huge surge in preventable deaths amongst the frail and elderly and details how thousands more vulnerable households were left stranded without access to support. The report authors said that that based on ONS data just in England there were as many as 1724 extra deaths 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 vary but they estimate up to 570 of the excess deaths were attributable to respiratory diseases, 690 to cardio-vascular diseases and 520 vulnerable people may have perished in cold homes during the freezing weather. Other causes may have included influenza, trips and falls or in a small number of cases, hyperthermia. Many more thousands died in the weeks following the cold snap, with 37,020 Excess Winter Deaths predicted across the U.K for the whole 2017-18 winter, compared with a 5 year average of 32,200 (a difference of 4,820).
  3. The links between cold homes and ill health 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. The table below shows the number of excess winter deaths in the UK from 2011 until the latest available data for last winter. Five-year totals and averages are shown encompassing the latest five years for which data are available. In 2018, research published by E3G and NEA found that, on average, there are 32,000 excess deaths each year in the UK between December and March. Based on the Word Health Organisations own conservative estimates that 30% of EWDs are attributable to cold related ill-health prompted by cold homes, around 9,700 deaths are experienced each year across the UK. Table 1: Excess winter deaths across the UK since 2011 (ONS, 2017c; NISRA, 2017; NRS, 2017)

 

Winter England                Northern Ireland              Scotland               Wales    UK total

2011/12               22,820 500        1,420     1,250     25,990

2012/13               29,370 560        2,000     1,840     33,770

2013/14               16,330 590        1,600     1,010     19,530

2014/15               41,300 870        4,060     2,580     48,810

2015/16               22,780 640        2,850     1,790     28,060

2016/17 (provisional)     32,500 –              2,720     1,800     37,020

Latest 5-year average     27,520 630        2,440     1,710     32,200

Latest 5-year total            142,280                3,160     13,230 9,020     167,690

  1. 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 this winter because they were unable to adequately heat their homes.

 

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