130%+ increase in Excess Winter Deaths in Northern Ireland
19 December 2018
Fuel Poverty campaign charity, National Energy Action reacted to the figures for the 1,500 excess winter deaths released today which have increased by over 130% since 2015-16.
These figures are the highest since the major flu epidemic in 1989. Over 500 of these deaths will be directly attributable to living in a cold damp home. The vast majority will have multiple hospital and GP visits behind them.
On top of these preventable deaths we know that many thousands more people 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 all 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.
The figures demonstrate the need for urgent action and come after NEA launched the Warm and Safe Homes (WASH) campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the annual devastation that cold homes wreak on the most vulnerable in our society and focus on what more needs to be done to end fuel poverty and ‘preventable’ excess winter deaths and ill health.
Director of NEA NI, Pat Austin said:
“These figures are shocking. Excess winter deaths are avoidable; however, they seem to have been accepted as part of winter. Rising energy prices, welfare cuts and stagnant wages are causing people to struggle more and more during the winter months. Additional support is needed to ensure that the most vulnerable 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.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that one third of excess winter deaths are attributable to living in a cold home.
- NEA is an independent charity working to protect low-income and vulnerable households from fuel poverty and exclusion in the energy market. NEA has a network of offices throughout England and also has national offices in Cardiff and Belfast which also work to support deprived communities and low-income energy consumers in Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.
- The Warm and Safe Homes (WASH) campaign is NEA’s annual winter initiative (formerly the Warm Homes Campaign), focusing on the need for people to be able to stay warm in their homes. The campaign raises awareness amongst both politicians and members of the public of the problem of fuel poverty and the action needed to be taken at a policy level; as well as the help and support available locally for those struggling to heat their homes. It also highlights key messages around gas and electricity safety in the home. For more information about the WASH campaign visit: https://www.nea.org.uk/campaigns-policy/wash-2018/.
- Earlier this year NEA published the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor amongst the findings relating to Northern Ireland, statistics showed an increase in Emergency Department admissions up 13% in the last 5 years and waiting times longer than 12 hours have increased.
- Lowest temperature was recorded at -7 in March 2018 in Northern Ireland.
- Our recommendations in the UK fuel poverty monitor were for a comprehensive cold weather plan and with the formal adoption of the NICE NG6 guidelines relating to cold-related ill health and excess winter deaths.
- We also recommend more accessibly contingency funding for third sector frontline workers dealing with the most vulnerable.
- The method defines the winter period as December to March, and compares the number of deaths that occurred in this winter period with the average number of non-winter deaths occurring in the preceding August to November and the following April to July (NISRA).
- There are a number of variables affecting these figures, the strongest correlation is between temperature and respiratory deaths.
Published on 19-12-2018