Excess winter deaths soar

Excess winter deaths reached their highest levels for nearly 10 years and rose by almost 50% on 2007-8 levels, National Statistics figures published today revealed.

They showed there were 36,700 extra deaths in England and Wales during the winter months – December to March – in 2008-9, compared with the average for the non-winter months, the highest level since 1999-2000.

Among people aged over 75, there were 29,400 excess deaths.

The news sparked an angry reaction from merged charity Age Concern and Help the Aged.

Head of policy Andrew Harrop said the figures sounded a “deafening wake-up call about the older population’s well-being if we have another cold snap”, and urged the government to tackle fuel poverty among pensioners.

He added: “Last winter, as temperatures plunged, rising inflation and soaring energy bills forced two in five older people to cut back on their heating to save money.”

Harrop said the government should use next month’s pre-budget report to reverse funding cuts planned for the Warm Front Scheme, which provides grants to help people on lower incomes meet heating costs.

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