The Scandal Of Deaths From Winter Cold

6 Dec 2013

As the country faces a cold snap and the energy companies announce inflation-busting price increases, official figures show that the number of extra deaths of older people in the winter of 2012-13 was up on the winter before. An estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2012-13, a 29% increase compared with the previous winter, according to the Office for National Statistics. As in previous years, there were more excess winter deaths of women than men in 2012-13. The gender breakdown was that female deaths increased from 13,610 to 18,000, while the respective numbers of men were 10,590 and 13,100. In Northern Ireland, the number of excess deaths was 560 against 500 the year before, while in Scotland the numbers were up from 1,420 to 2,000.

Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), described the latest excess winter death figures among the elderly as a “national scandal” and a wake-up call for the government. The NPC pointed out that the cold claims more lives in the UK than in Sweden where temperatures regularly plunge to -30C in winter. As a proportion, excess winter deaths accounted for 4.61% of all UK deaths, compared with 3.76% in Sweden. Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary said: “This is a national scandal which the government seems incapable of doing anything about. Making sure
older people have got a well insulated warm home and the income to pay the fuel bills isn’t ‘green crap’.”

The figures were released a day after the Ofgem regulator launched a scathing attack on the record and profits of the big energy suppliers. Ofgem published data showing that profit margins in the industry had risen from 2.8% in 2011, to 4.3% in 2012. Centrica, the owner of British Gas, had the highest profit margin, at 6.6%. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said hard questions need to be asked about “why some ministers have been prepared to go along with energy company bosses in blaming green levies and help for the less well-off, when what has gone wrong is profit grabbing in a bust market”.