Winter deaths on the up

Winter deaths on the up

The number of winter deaths among older people is on the up in the UK, new figures have revealed.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 40,800 excess deaths among over-65s during the winter of 2014 and 2015. Some 36,300 were aged over 75, compared with 7,700 a year earlier.

Age UK has expressed disappointment at the ONS figures, since a modest improvement had been recorded last year.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, described this latest increase as "dramatic" and said it is a "terrible rebuke to anyone who thought it was 'job done' when it comes to keeping older people safe from the cold".

"These truly awful statistics represent a significant reverse and they highlight the imperative of us doing much more to tackle the underlying problem: cold, poorly insulated homes," she commented.

"'Behind the figures are many individual tragedies of older people dying needlessly before their time."

Ms Abrahams added that this issue is also proving extremely costly to both the NHS and social care services, as treating the casualties leads to "big avoidable costs".

The ONS believes the flu virus was a key contributor to the increase last winter. Spokeswoman Claudia Wells pointed out that while the cold weather was undoubtedly a factor behind elderly mortality a year ago, most of last winter was actually warmer than average.

This, she said, suggests the flu vaccine was not as effective last winter as it had been in previous years.