High en­ergy costs blamed for ex­cess death fig­ures

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - JENNIFER COCKRELL [email protected]­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

THERE were an es­ti­mated 50,100 ex­cess win­ter deaths in Eng­land and Wales in 2017/18 – the high­est recorded since win­ter 1975/76, fig­ures show.

The in­crease is thought to be down to the flu, the ef­fec­tive­ness of the flu vac­cine and the par­tic­u­larly cold weather seen last win­ter.

How­ever a pensioners’ group blamed high en­ergy prices for at least some of the deaths.

Bri­tain’s big­gest pen­sioner or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Na­tional Pensioners Con­ven­tion (NPC) has called on the En­ergy Min­is­ter, Claire Perry MP to re­sign fol­low­ing news that the scale of win­ter deaths among the coun­try’s older pop­u­la­tion reached the high­est fig­ure since 1975/76.

The data, from the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics (ONS), also shows that more than a third (34.7 per cent) of the deaths were caused by res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases.

Ex­cess win­ter mor­tal­ity con­tin­ued to be high­est among fe­males and peo­ple aged 85 and over, while it dou­bled among males aged 0-64 be­tween the win­ter of 2016/17 and 2017/18.

The num­ber of daily deaths ex­ceeded the five-year av­er­age for all dates ex­cept March 25.

Nick Stripe, head of health anal­y­sis and life events at the ONS, said: “It is likely that last win­ter’s in­crease was due to the pre­dom­i­nant strain of flu, the ef­fec­tive­ness of the in­fluenza vac­cine and be­low-av­er­age win­ter tem­per­a­tures.”

The ONS said the in­creases could be ex­plained partly by tem­per­a­ture, as colder weather was ob­served in De­cem­ber, Fe­bru­ary and March com­pared with the five-year av­er­age.

Statis­ti­cians said the high num­ber of deaths among the over-85 age group may be due to the cir­cu­la­tion of in­fluenza A and in­fluenza B, which pre­dom­i­nantly af­fected older adults.

The num­ber of ex­cess win­ter deaths ob­served in 2017/18 was higher than all years since the 1975/76 win­ter pe­riod, when there were 58,100 deaths. How­ever, the in­crease was sim­i­lar to peaks ob­served in pre­vi­ous years such as 2014/15, 1999/2000 and 1998/99.

Com­pared with re­cent years, ex­cess win­ter deaths ob­served in 2017/18 were 45.1 per cent higher than the 2016/17 win­ter and more than dou­ble those seen in 2015/16.

The fig­ures also showed that ex­cess win­ter mor­tal­ity in 2017 to 2018 sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased from 2016 to 2017 in all English re­gions and Wales, and

It’s time some­one took

re­spon­si­bil­ity and that has to lie with the En­ergy Min­is­ter

JAN SHORTT

those af­fected the most were fe­males and peo­ple aged 85 and over.

Com­ment­ing on the find­ings, Age UK’s charity di­rec­tor, Caro­line Abra­hams, said: “A toxic cock­tail of poor hous­ing, high en­ergy prices and ill­health can make win­ter a dan­ger­ous time for many older peo­ple, and trag­i­cally it is the old­est and those who are the most vul­ner­a­ble who par­tic­u­larly suf­fer the con­se­quences.”

Jan Shortt, NPC gen­eral sec­re­tary said: “Things are now the worst they’ve been for over 40 years.

“It’s time some­one took re­spon­si­bil­ity and that has to lie with the En­ergy Min­is­ter.”

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