NEA Cymru slams record number of excess winter deaths last winter as predictable, preventable, and shameful
For immediate release
11 December 2018
New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the number of excess winter deaths in Wales reached 3,400, the highest on record since the winter of 1975/76.
1,020 of these deaths will be relatable directly to a cold home. The vast majority will have multiple hospital and GP visits behind them. According to the ONS, it is likely that last winter’s increase was due to the predominant strain of flu, the ineffectiveness of the influenza vaccine and below-average winter temperatures. European countries that experience severe winters, such as Iceland and Finland, see lower excess winter deaths than the UK, demonstrating that these deaths are preventable.
Carole Morgan-Jones, Director of NEA Cymru commented:
“These figures are shocking. Excess winter deaths are avoidable, however they seem to have been accepted as part of winter in Wales. Rising energy prices, increasing living costs and stagnant wages are causing people to struggle more and more during the winter months. Additional support is needed in Wales to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are supported.”
On top of these preventable deaths, we know that many more will have suffered the preventable health impacts of living in a cold and damp home, as well as resorting to harmful coping strategies.
New evidence provided by frontline workers to NEA, has revealed the top 10 unsafe fuel poverty coping strategies being used to survive winter. The regular use of older, dangerous or un-serviced heating appliances is common place, despite being potentially fatal or leading to heightened risks for nearby neighbours as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning or in extreme situations, fires and explosions. The charity says many more people are going to bed early to keep warm and using candles to save on electricity. People struggling to heat their homes are also spending their days in heated spaces such as libraries, cafes or even A&E to avoid the cold.
NEA Cymru launched its Warm and Safe Homes Campaign on the 21st November to raise awareness of the issue of fuel poverty and its increased risk to health and safety. For more information, visit www.nea.org.uk , for twitter see #WarmandSafeHomesCampaign.